Experts and Their Biases
Full course description
Some have argued that the story behind miscarriages of justice is, in fact, the story of expert errors and misjudgements. Experts do, indeed, play an important role in judicial decision making; the law expects them to reach their decisions on the basis of scientifically grounded principles. Consider the handwriting expert who has to decide whether a ransom note was written by the defendant. Or the child psychologist who has to decide whether a child should stay with an emotionally labile mother. Should we trust the expertise of these professionals? How can their decisions be optimised? Psychometrics and decision making and other issues typically thought to be the province of expert witnesses are discussed at length during this course. In doing so, the course focuses on biases that may plague experts.
At the end of this course, students:
- are able to explain and critically evaluate the theoretical background/anchors of the literature on biases, specifically the notion of dual processing;
- are able to explain key concepts in the psychological literature on expertise and feedback;
- are able to articulate biases that have been particularly well-studied in the context of legal decision making. Specifically, they are able to explain what these biases are and how the experimental procedures look like with which these biases can be evoked;
- are able to explain and use key terms from the decision making literature, notably sensitivity, specificity, base rate, positive and negative predicting power, ROC, and AUC;
- are able to perform calculations required to determine Oddsratios, Likelihood ratio’s, and optimal cutoffs on tests;
- are able to specify procedures that may reduce the risk of biases, i.e. effective de-biasing techniques.