Course Details

Course TitleMinimizing Bias in Forensic Decision Making
Date Varies
ProviderConcept Continuing and Professional Studies (Palo Alto University)
Credit Hours10
Instructor(s)Itiel Dror, PhD
Method of InstructionOnline (Asynchronous/Self-paced)
Approving AgencyAPA
Course Syllabus

Course Description

The program covers the brain and cognitive issues relating to bias and cognitive processing and then connects the cognitive science issues to practical and specific topics in forensic decision-making. In addition to knowledge about the cognitive factors in forensic decision-making, the program also provides practical solutions to address weaknesses and best practices to enhance forensic practices. Specific application to forensic mental health evaluation is provided through engaging discussions between Dr. Dror and Dr. Patricia Zapf, a forensic psychologist and expert in best practices in forensic mental health evaluation. In addition, Dr. Zapf provides elaboration on how the factors discussed by Dr. Dror apply to a forensic mental health evaluation. Conducting forensic examinations is similar to other expert domains that require perception and interpretation of information, such as in the military, medical, and financial disciplines. Even in everyday life, humans constantly process information. Information is perceived, encoded, represented, transformed, stored, retrieved, compared to other details, evaluated, and assessed, to name just a few cognitive processes. The human mind is not a camera, as we actively process and compare the information. It is naive to think we passively construct and experience reality and perceive the environment as 'it is.' We engage in various cognitive processes that organize and structure the information as it comes in from the external world. Data is then further interpreted and processed in ways that highly depend on the human mind and cognitive factors. As we dynamically process information, we affect what we see, interpret and evaluate it, and our decision-making process. Thus, to enhance expert performance and understand that different factors may affect their work, especially in a highly specialized domain such as forensics, one needs to consider the role of the human mind and cognitive factors (Dror, 2015). While some education is provided to forensic experts, there is a lack of training in the psychological and cognitive elements involved in forensic decision-making. Thus, there is a lack of systematic training and professional development in the influence of human cognition on forensic work. This program is a step towards addressing training in the cognitive factors involved in forensic decision-making.

Course Objectives

Describe background information regarding the human mind and cognitive system

Describe how information and knowledge is acquired, processed, represented, encoded, stored, utilized, retrieved, compared, and evaluated

Describe how decisions are made

Demonstrate the connection between information and a variety of forensic decision making processes that forensic examiners typically use

Describe how cognitive factors can be utilized to make forensic experts’ work more efficient

Describe the pitfalls and errors that can occur in forensic decision making

Describe the Factors / Powers that influence the mind of the forensic evaluator

Describe the Dror HEP Hierarchy of Expert Performance

Describe sources of bias and countermeasures

Describe the process of Chunking