This paper discusses the interaction between visual cognition, perceptual expertise, and judgment during fingerprint examiners' decisionmaking process in forensic investigations.
This article examines the interaction between visual cognition, perceptual expertise, and judgment during fingerprint examiners' decisionmaking process in forensic investigations. The article reviews current knowledge of and research into the forensic decisionmaking process. Several criminal case studies are discussed that highlight the problems that can occur as a result of cognitive bias and psychological influences. These cases show how bias in initial examinations can lead to subsequent examiners reaching erroneous conclusions because they explained away and dismissed discrepancies due to their own perception and judgment of the actual data. The article also identifies research studies examining bias in forensic decisionmaking that have resulted in conflicting findings as to the actual existence of bias. These findings suggest that if fingerprint examiners can be biased, then so to can firearm and toolmaker examiners, document examiners, and all other types of forensic examiners. The studies also suggest that several factors can affect the perception and comparison of fingerprint patterns, and that these judgments and decisions are subjective and susceptible to outside influences. References
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