Watch a BBC's Newsnight interview with Dr. Dror on fingerprint identification reliability and error, or see PBS 'Frontline' TV (USA) "Can Unconscious Bias Undermine Fingerprint Analysis?"
A paper in Science, 2018, summarizes many of the implicit cognitive bias issues in forensic science. There are eight sources of bias that may cognitively contaminate sampling, observations, testing strategies, analysis and conclusions, even by experts --See figure. They are organized in a taxonomy within three categories: sources relating to the specific case and analysis (Category A), sources that relate to the specific person doing the analysis (Category B), and sources that relate to human nature (Category C) -see Dror, 2020.
There are also common fallacies about bias.
See a general paper on 'forensic labs explore blind testing to prevent errors - evidence examiners get practical about fighting cognitive bias' that appeared in Science, or 'ignorance is bliss' that appeared in The Economist, or 'the fine print' that appeared in Nature, or a brief to the Houses of Parliament.
Through Cognitive Consultants International (CCI-HQ) we have provided training (including online training) and consultancy to forensic examiners on how to deal with and minimize confirmation and other cognitive biases (e.g., to police forces and national forensic institutes in the Netherlands, Finland, Taiwan, Canada, Brazil, China, and Australia, as well as to many police forces in the US and the UK, such as the London Metropolitan Police, Greater Manchester Police, NYPD, SFPD, LAPD & LASD, Boston PD, and the FBI). We have also provided expert reports and testimony on these issues to courts in a number of countries (working for the prosecution and for the defence), and to legislators (e.g., MD Senate hearings on Bill 404 regarding Criminal Law –Death Penalty– Evidence), as well as training judges (e.g., the Senior Judiciary in England, all Superior Court Judges in the State of Massachusetts). We provided consultancy to the UK Passport and Identity Services on reducing fraud detection through facial recognition. Dr Itiel Dror is an Associate Editor and on the Board of Editors of a number of scientific journals, such as Science & Justice, Forensic Science Policy & Management, Pragmatics & Cognition, and the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. His research has been cited throughout the National Academy of Sciences report on Forensic Science (2009), the Fingerprint Enquiry Report, and in dozens of court cases (e.g., by the Supreme Court of Maryland, in the case of Kobina Ebo Abruquah Vs. State Of Maryland, 2022; Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, in the case of Commonwealth vs. Gambora, 2010; by the Court of Appeal in the UK, in the cases of R v Dlugosz, Pickering, and MDS, 2013).
We have developed a variety of practical solutions, such as Linear Sequential Unmasking - Expanded (LSU-E) to deal with biases in forensic science work. For more technical articles, see 'Linear Sequential Unmasking–Expanded (LSU-E): A General Approach for Improving Decision Making as well as Minimizing Noise and Bias' or 'Meta-Analytically Quantifying the Reliability and Biasability of Forensic Experts' that appeared in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and 'Cognitive Issues in Fingerprint Analysis: Inter-and Intra-expert Consistency and the Effect of a Target Comparison' that appeared in the journal Forensic Science International.
(click here or on image for further details)
We are a group of researchers investigating human performance, cognitive biases, and human factors in forensic identification and their solutions (e.g., Linear Sequential Unmasking - Expanded (LSU-E)) --See the editorial in Science, and the sources of bias, about many of the implicit cognitive biases in forensic science, which apply even to the more objective forensic domains, as well as to forensic pathology.
Science magazine published a feature detailing some our research: "The Bias Hunter: Itiel Dror is determined to reveal the role of bias in forensics, even if it sparks outrage" (13 May 2022, pp. 686-690).
This applied area of cognitive forensics bring together a number of domains in human information processing in which we specialize within cognitive psychology. These domains include pattern recognition, mental representations, decision making, expertise, visual cognition, and knowledge acquisition. These areas all converge together in the applied domains of biometrics and the criminal justice system. Other areas of interest to us which are vital for biometric and forensic applications are the use and integration of technology and selection & training of examiners; including issues of confirmation & other cognitive biases, and optimizing decision making. We have taken our expertise in these areas and our understanding of human performance & cognition and have applied them to real world issues (not only in forensic science, but in many other expert domains, such as medicine, frontline policing, and US Air Force pilots).
Dr. Itiel Dror has received the 2014 ABP (Association for Business Psychology) Annual Award for 'Excellence in Training' for his work in improving decision making and reducing bias in forensic science, and was the Chair of the OSAC Forensic Human Factors Committee of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) & National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Dr Dror is also a member of the AAAS (The American Association for the Advancement of Science) Advisory Committee on Forensic Science Assessment (a project in which the AAAS will conduct an analysis of the underlying scientific bases for the forensic tools and methods currently used in the criminal justice system).
For a paper that focuses on the use of technology, see 'The use of technology in human expert domains: Challenges and risks arising from the use of automated fingerprint identification systems in forensics', that appeared in the journal Law, Probability and Risk.
Recently much has been happening on both sides of the Atlantic in taking on the issue of cognitive factors in forensic work. In the UK, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser Annual Report includes a Chapter about Cognitive and Human Factors, the UK Forensic Regulator issued guidance on Cognitive Bias, and the UK Houses of Parliament brief on Forensic Investigations. In the US, the National Commission on Forensic Science has voted to adopt a document on 'Ensuring That Forensic Analysis is Based Upon Task-Relevant Information'.
More publications and presentations on these issues: