Contextual Bias In Criminal Investigation

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The study conducted under Lentini and DeHaan highlights that investigators cannot use patterns as a method to establish how a fire started. This is what caused arson investigation to be described as needing “much more research on the natural variability of burn patterns and damage characteristics” (NCJRS, 2009). This means that arson experts cannot simply look at patterns to determine its origin because there is still a lot unknown about arson and fire patterns in general. This is a common occurrence in other forensic branches, as investigators are recognizing that patterns rely too much on the eye instead of science that can be researched. Additionally, there was another study conducted by ‘The Arson Research Project’ under expert Paul Bieber …show more content…
Contextual bias occurs when the investigators uses irrelevant facts to prove the guilt of a suspect, while confirmation bias occurs when they specifically look for facts that prove a previous assumption. Avoidance of cognitive dissonance occurs when the investigators refuse to accept new information that can disprove their theories. Like the arson study, other investigators conducted studies about how much these forms of bias can influence evidence interpretations. For example, Itiel Dror, fingerprint analyzer, observed that “the judgment of latent fingerprint examiners can be influenced by knowledge about other forensic examiners’ decisions” (PCAST, 2016). This implies that scientists will focus on the evidence that proves another colleague’s interpretation, which is a form of confirmation bias. This is a huge problem for forensics; as experts are supposed to be subjective to the facts, without consciously or subconsciously having bias opinions. Another huge problem dealing with bias opinions is racism during a suspect lineup. Eyewitnesses are crucial during trials because if the witness is confident in their selection, then it can strengthen the case against that suspect. During lineups, the police will place the suspect among “filler people” that are not accused of the crime and then ask the witness to identify the suspect. However, this can also be a problem if that witness truly cannot remember the face of the culprit. This is a common occurrence when a weapon is involved because it “can draw visual attention away from the perpetrator’s fact” (Schuster, 2007). This will increase the level of guessing during lineups because the witness would be unable to identify the face they cannot remember. However, they are more likely to recognize the face of somebody of their own ethnic group than outside their

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