Thinking forensics: Cognitive science for forensic practitioners

Sci Justice. 2017 Mar;57(2):144-154. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2016.11.005. Epub 2016 Dec 3.


Human factors and their implications for forensic science have attracted increasing levels of interest across criminal justice communities in recent years. Initial interest centred on cognitive biases, but has since expanded such that knowledge from psychology and cognitive science is slowly infiltrating forensic practices more broadly. This article highlights a series of important findings and insights of relevance to forensic practitioners. These include research on human perception, memory, context information, expertise, decision-making, communication, experience, verification, confidence, and feedback. The aim of this article is to sensitise forensic practitioners (and lawyers and judges) to a range of potentially significant issues, and encourage them to engage with research in these domains so that they may adapt procedures to improve performance, mitigate risks and reduce errors. Doing so will reduce the divide between forensic practitioners and research scientists as well as improve the value and utility of forensic science evidence.

Keywords: Bias; Experience; Expert; Human factors; Performance; Psychology; Training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognitive Science*
  • Expert Testimony
  • Feedback
  • Forensic Sciences*
  • Humans
  • Memory
  • Professional Competence