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Healthy Balance

Questioning the Bias of Courtroom Experts

The weight that a judge or jury gives the testimony of psychological experts during a trial hinges on those experts’ impartiality.

But new research from UVA’s School of Medicine and Sam Houston State University suggests that some experts are actually biased toward the side that hired them — perhaps without even realizing it.

The researchers conducting the experiment set up a real-world scenario involving 118 forensic psychologists and psychiatrists who were asked to evaluate the chances four sexually violent predators would re-offend.

The experts were told they would be paid to offer consultation and all were given the same four cases to review.

Half of the experts believed they were working for the defense, while the other half believed they were working for the prosecution.

Those who believed they were working for the prosecution tended to view the offenders in their cases as being higher risk individuals, while those on the opposite side found the predators to be less of a threat.

Read more about the findings and why one of the lead researchers deemed them “alarming.”

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