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    Social Psychology

Are Forensic Experts Biased by the Side That Retained Them?

Daniel C. Murrie1, Marcus T. Boccaccini2, Lucy A. Guarnera1,
and Katrina A. Rufino2
1Institute of Law, Psychiatry, and Public Policy, University of Virginia, and 2Department
of Psychology and Philosophy, Sam Houston State University
Psychological Science
XX(X) 1–
© The Author(s) 2013
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797613481812

How objective are forensic experts when they are retained by one of the opposing sides in an adversarial legal
proceeding? Despite long-standing concerns from within the legal system, little is known about whether experts can
provide opinions unbiased by the side that retained them. In this experiment, we paid 108 forensic psychologists
and psychiatrists to review the same offender case files, but deceived some to believe that they were consulting for
the defense and some to believe that they were consulting for the prosecution. Participants scored each offender on
two commonly used, well-researched risk-assessment instruments. Those who believed they were working for the
prosecution tended to assign higher risk scores to offenders, whereas those who believed they were working for the
defense tended to assign lower risk scores to the same offenders; the effect sizes (d) ranged up to 0.85. The results
provide strong evidence of an allegiance effect among some forensic experts in adversarial legal proceedings.


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