Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Remarkable experiment proves pull of adversarial allegiance

Original Article

This just goes to show you that corruption is indeed part of the "justice" system.


By Karen Franklin, Ph.D.

Psychologists' scoring of forensic tools depends on which side they believe has hired them

A brilliant experiment has proven that adversarial pressures skew forensic psychologists' scoring of supposedly objective risk assessment tests, and that this "adversarial allegiance" is not due to selection bias, or preexisting differences among evaluators.

The researchers duped about 100 experienced forensic psychologists into believing they were part of a large-scale forensic case consultation at the behest of either a public defender service or a specialized prosecution unit. After two days of formal training by recognized experts on two widely used forensic instruments -- the Psychopathy Checklist-R (PCL-R) and the Static-99R -- the psychologists were paid $400 to spend a third day reviewing cases and scoring subjects. The National Science Foundation picked up the $40,000 tab.

Unbeknownst to them, the psychologists were all looking at the same set of four cases. But they were "primed" to consider the case from either a defense or prosecution point of view by a research confederate, an actual attorney who pretended to work on a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) unit. In his defense attorney guise, the confederate made mildly partisan but realistic statements such as "We try to help the court understand that ... not every sex offender really poses a high risk of reoffending." In his prosecutor role, he said, "We try to help the court understand that the offenders we bring to trial are a select group [who] are more likely than other sex offenders to reoffend." In both conditions, he hinted at future work opportunities if the consultation went well.

The deception was so cunning that only four astute participants smelled a rat; their data were discarded.

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