There are any number of biases that can disrupt clarity of thought. Some of the biases have a financial cost, and some can inflict damage on a group of stigmatised individuals. But in the world of law, bias can be especially damaging.
For the interested reader, and anyone who wishes to discover the nature of the biases, I’ll post a link revealing a good number of them at the end of this summary.
A recent summary by the APA, looks at the issue of bias within the legal system.
Bias within the legal system is an incredibly dangerous beast, these biases can threaten the very notion of a fair and impartial legal system. More and more literature is revealing the subtle ways in which these biases are made manifest.
A new article (Neal et al, 2022 as cited in APA, 2022) reveals the problematic nature of bias. However, the article also presents some hope for reducing the appearance of bias. The authors conducted a systematic review of bias from a forensic mental health context.
According to the APA’s summary, the authors found that 69.6% of the studies only focused on the biases themselves without consideration of how these biases might be addressed.
Of the 17 studies which focused on bias, 10 found significant results of bias in forensic mental health experts (58.8%).
Four additional studies found partial evidence of bias.
The most common bias was adversarial allegiance. In legal terms, one might imagine that an expert who is working for the prosecution allows his opinions to draw him to sharing the viewpoint of the case from the perspective of the prosecution (I’ll post a link exploring adversarial allegiance at the bottom).
Other common biases found included:
Gender and racial bias
Only two of the studies showed debiasing options. The authors suggest that a more careful and deliberate cognitive process goes a little way to solving the issue of bias, and while it can still lead to bias in certain predictable cases, biases can be reduced.