Cognitive Bias and Forensic Science Workshop

Final Report (pdf), 57 pages, posted June 23, 2011


This workshop on Cognitive Bias and Forensic Science brought together about two dozen leading psychologists, forensic scientists, and others to explore the ways in which psychological factors may affect the conclusions that forensic scientists reach. It was held September 23-24, 2010, at Northwestern Law's Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth in Chicago.

The workshop began with a series of background presentations that explored the methods used in the forensic sciences, identified the roles that various psychological factors may play in forensic pattern recognition, and reviewed portions of a National Academy of Sciences report on the current state of the forensic sciences. In the afternoon of the first workshop day, participants broke out into small groups to discuss ways in which task structure, contextual influences, expectation, emotion, and confirmatory strategies may affect what forensic scientists see, and their judgments about who or what is the source of evidentiary items recovered from an investigation. Groups were encouraged to identify general theories and testable hypotheses that advance our understanding of social and cognitive effects on judgment and decision making with an eye toward using that new understanding to identify potential areas for reform in the forensic sciences.

On the second day of the workshop, each group presented its ideas to the complete set of workshop participants. Time was left for discussion to refine those ideas. The workshop ended with a session designed to pull together workshop contributions and to identify a concrete agenda for further research.

Schedule (pdf)


National Science Foundation

Workshop Organizer

Jay Koehler (Northwestern University School of Law)
Beatrice Kuhn Professor of Law

Workshop Participants

View Participant Bios (pdf)

Hal Arkes (Ohio State University, Department of Psychology)

Deborah Boehm-Davis (George Mason University, Department of Psychology Human Factors and Applied Cognition)
University Professor and Chair

Joshua Correll (The University of Chicago, Department of Psychology)
Assistant Professor

Shari Seidman Diamond (Northwestern University School of Law)
Howard J. Trienens Professor of Law

Itiel Dror (University College London)
Principal Consultant and Researcher, Cognitive Consultants International (CCI)

David L. Faigman (University of California, Hastings College of Law)
John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law

Thomas D. Gilovich (Cornell University, Department of Psychology)
Professor and Chairperson

Lesley Hammer (Hammer Forensics, LLC)
Chair, Scientific Working Group on Shoeprint and Tire Tread Evidence

Reid Hastie (University of Chicago Booth School of Business)
Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science

Robin Jones (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)
Office of the Director; Executive Secretary for the Subcommittee on Forensic Science

Dan M. Kahan (Yale Law School)
Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law

Joshua Klayman (Center for Decision Research, University of Chicago Booth School of Business)
Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Science

Glenn Langenburg (Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension)
Certified Latent Print Examiner

Craig R.M. McKenzie (University of California, San Diego, Rady School of Management and Department of Psychology)

Ken Melson (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives)
Acting Director

Jennifer L. Mnookin (University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law)

Emily Pronin (Princeton University, Department Psychology)
Associate Professor

Michael J. Saks (Arizona State University, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law)
Regents' Professor of Law and Psychology

Jay Siegel (Indiana University-Purdue University, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology)
Professor and Department Chair
Director, Forensic and Investigative Science, Analytical and Forensic Chemistry

William C. Thompson (Department of Criminology, Law and Society, School of Social Ecology, University of California)
Professor of Criminology, Law, and Society and Psychology & Social Behavior

Mark L. Weiss (National Science Foundation)
Division Director for Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences within the Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences

Paul Windschitl (University of Iowa, Department of Psychology)
Professor of Psychology

Background Papers

"The Coming Paradigm Shift in Forensic Identification Science," Michael J. Saks and Jonathan J. Koehler, Science, 2005 (pdf)

"Why Experts Make Errors," Itiel E. Dror and David Charlton, Journal of Forensic Identification, 2006 (pdf)

"Forensic Science Needs a Major Overhaul, Panel Says," Science, 2009 (Brief Summary of National Academy of Sciences Report) (pdf)

Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward, National Academy of Sciences, 2009

"Footwear and Foot Impressions: Overview," Lesley Hammer, Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, 2009 (pdf)

"Interpretation: Observer Effects," William C. Thompson, Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science, 2009 (pdf)

"The Vision in 'Blind' Justice: Expert Perception, Judgment, and Visual Cognition in Forensic Pattern Recognition," Itiel E. Dror and Simon A. Cole, Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2010 (pdf)

NIJ Solicitation: Social Science Research in Forensic Science, 2010 (pdf)

Group Presentations

Group 1
Group 2
Group 3
Group 4


Please e-mail Derek Gundersen with questions about Workshop logistics or administrative matters. Please e-mail Jay Koehler with substantive questions about the workshop content.

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