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Reasons for Lack of Consensus in Forensic Pathologist Interpretation of Photographs of Patterns of Injury of the Skin

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2016
5 pages
William R. Oliver
Publication Type
Research (Applied/Empirical), Report (Study/Research), Report (Grant Sponsored), Program/Project Description
Grant Number(s)

This study examined reasons for differing interpretations by forensic pathologists of the same photographs of injury pattern, absent a history of the context for the injury.


In a previous study, a survey‐based analysis of pathologists' diagnoses of patterned injury asked participants to diagnose injury causes from photographs, without any information on the history or context for the injury. The level of consensus was low. A follow‐up survey was conducted, asking those who responded to the first survey why they answered as they did or why they were unsure of their answers. The most common reason for lack of consensus was that the lesion was nonspecific. Responses invoking ambiguity were more common than those that indicated a confident difference in diagnosis. There were differences between demographic groups, with age and experience being most prominent. These findings suggest that differences in image interpretation do not generally reflect differences in diagnosis, but rather differing ways of dealing with ambiguity in the absence of history and context. A third survey will study the effect of the addition of contextual information. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Created: May 26, 2021