UCL Centre for the Forensic Sciences



Forensic anthropology and cognitive bias.

Potential effects of cognitive bias: The issues of cognitive bias and its potential effects in forensic science and in criminal investigations have been increasingly discussed, with empirical research demonstrating the existing effect of cognitive bias in decision making within numerous forensic fields. The complexity of data analysis and interpretation in forensic cases has been emphasised as one of the main issues in forensic science where cognitive biases may impact data collection, analysis, interpretation and conclusions.

Relevance to forensic anthropology: In many disciplines such as forensic anthropology the presence of bias, its impact, and how to mitigate its effects are still not fully assessed or appreciated. Questions such as how does cognition relate to forensic anthropology/forensic science, and how can it enhance forensic work needs to be evaluated.

Other forensic disciplines: This research will seek to understand the degree of bias in forensic anthropology and then in addition to other forensic disciplines where subjective interpretations may occur, and identify the means to avoid errors that might arise from interpretation issues within these fields. This project will undertaking experiments to test for bias empirically within forensic anthropological methods as well as other forensic disciplines using different manipulations to examine in greater complexity the stages in which bias is more prevalent, and when such factors affect performances and render forensic expert judgments compromised and equally when they do not.

Establishing an evidence based approach: The aim of the research is to aid in establishing an empirical evidence based approach for dealing with cognitive issues within the forensic field. In addition, this research will focus on the impact upon how to develop more valid, transparent and reliable techniques where decisions will be more robust and admissible in a court of law.