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The purpose of this report is to inform all future and current forensic scientists about the subject of confirmation bias. Upon reading this report, one should understand that forensic science does in fact suffer from the ill effects of confirmation bias. The reader should also learn a few ways to be able to be a part of the solution to this problem rather than furthering its prevalence. The resources for this report have come entirely from scientific journals, two of which directly outline the parameters and results of scientific experiments conducted by fellow forensic scientists.

What is Bias?

Bias is essentially when someone prefers one thing over another. In its simplest form, everybody exhibits some form of bias, whether it be harmful or not. For example, maybe you are biased against cats and think that dogs make for better pets. Most likely, there is some underlying reason for having this biased belief. Maybe you met a mean cat when you were young that scratched you, maybe someone you respect told you that cats are all bad, or maybe you have just never interacted with any cats before. Regardless of your reasoning for having this belief, the important fact is that it is still a form of bias. This example of bias is a fairly harmless one, but when this line of thinking/reasoning is applied to the forensic science, it can be quite harmful.

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is specific type of bias that can occur within a professional or scientific setting. In forensic science, it occurs when someone allows information gathered in the past or their preexisting beliefs to affect their interpretation of the evidence they are analyzing (Kassin et al.). Generally, as the name suggests, the examiner allows themselves to see the evidence as supporting the conclusion that they want it to or feel that it should support, regardless of whether the evidence actually does or not (Budowle et al. 803). This has the negative effect of removing the objective truth that the evidence should reveal and replacing it with the subject truth that the forensic examiner hopes to find in the evidence. As a forensic scientist, your main professional goal is to discover what actually happened at a crime scene. By allowing yourself to engage in confirmation bias, you are essentially sacrificing this goal entirely.
Possible Sources of Confirmation Bias

There are many possible reasons for why someone may allow themselves to commit an act of confirmation bias. It is, however, important to note that not everyone that does so is actually consciously aware that they are doing it (Kassin et al.). Confirmation bias can be easily imagined in a case involving a high profile suspect that the forensic examiner either loves or hates. If the examiner discovers who the suspect actually is in the case, then it is easy to imagine that they would subconsciously want the evidence to point towards the verdict that their feelings favor. Confirmation bias can also stem from something as simple as the forensic examiner just overhearing that the suspect has made a confession to the crime. The problem is, the examiner has no way of knowing if what they overheard is true or not. Even if it is true that the suspect confessed, the confession could have been a false confession given under duress or to cover for someone else who is actually guilty. Because of these possibilities, the examiner should never sacrifice the objectivity of the evidence in order to comply with what they have heard about the case elsewhere.

Negative Effects of Confirmation Bias
The possible negative effects of confirmation bias within forensic science cannot be understated. One such negative effect could be aiding in the incarceration of an innocent person by offering a false interpretation of evidence that points to their guilt (Budowle et al. 798; Kassin et al.). Another similar effect could be aiding in the acquittal of a guilty person by doing the opposite. Both of these could have long reaching moral consequences, as the actual guilty party in the crime would still be free to walk the streets with the rest of society, free to reoffend if they so choose. Another negative effect of confirmation bias is the degradation of the validity of forensic science as a whole, or at least its validity in the eyes of the public and court system (Kassin et al.).

Does Confirmation Bias Exist within the Forensic Community?

A recent experiment conducted by Itiel Dror and Robert Rosenthal showed that forensic scientists, in the form of latent fingerprint examiners, are susceptible to confirmation bias (903. In the experiment, Dror and Rosenthal had fairly small group of six experts in the field of fingerprinting look at eight sets of fingerprints to determine whether they were a match or not (902). When they were given the prints for examination, four of the sets were accompanied with additional information about the case that they were linked to that implied the suspects guilt (Dror and Rosenthal 902). What Dror and Rosenthal found was that the experts were significantly more likely to make a false positive match with the four sets of fingerprints that were accompanied with the extra information (903). Even more interesting, is the fact that all of these sets of fingerprints were previously analyzed by these same experts in the past during their careers (Dror and Rosenthal 902). Many of the instances where a false match was made were not only ones where extra information was given, but they were also the opposite of what they had determined earlier in their careers (Dror and Rosenthal 903). These findings clearly point to the influence that confirmation bias can have on a fingerprint expert.

In another recent experiment conducted by Sherry Nakhaeizadeh, Itiel Dror, and Ruth Morgan (209), confirmation bias was proven to exist within forensic anthropologists (study of human skeletal remains). In their experiment, three groups of experienced anthropologists were asked to determine the sex, ethnicity and age of death of a skeleton of which all of these characteristics were known (Nakhaeizadeh et al. 209-210). Two groups were told what others

Figure 1 Sex Assessment Distribution
Source: Nakhaeizadeh, Sherry, Itiel E. Dror and Ruth M. Morgan. “Cognitive Bias in Forensic Anthropology: Visual Assessment of Skeletal Remains is Susceptible to Confirmation Bias.”
Science & Justice 54.3 (2014): 208-214.

had found the characteristics to be while the other group was told nothing (Nakhaeizadeh et al. 209). It was found that the groups that were told the findings of others were far more likely to conform to what they were told and make a false interpretation, even when that interpretation was clearly wrong (Nakhaeizadeh et al. 213). Figure 1 shows the results of the sex determination portion of the experiment. The actual gender of the remains was female (Nakhaeizadeh et al. 209). This clearly shows that group A, which was told that it was previously identified as male, clearly made their decisions against what the evidence actually showed (Nakhaeizadeh et al. 213). This experiment further proves the confirmation biass existence within forensic scientists.
To put it simply, the answer, to whether or not confirmation bias really exists within the forensic community, is an emphatic yes. The main problem with this statement is that we do not know how far reaching of a problem confirmation bias actually is. The results of the two previously discussed studies simply indicate that forensic scientists appear to be just as susceptible to confirmation bias as anyone else (Dror and Rosenthal 903; Nakhaeizadeh et al. 213). What they, and other studies, do not accurately tell us, is how many criminal cases have in the past been and are currently being skewed by confirmation bias on the part of forensic scientists.

Possible Solutions

Now that the basis of the problem has been established, it is important to discuss potential ways to mitigate its impact. We need not know how widespread the problem of confirmation bias actually is in order to accept that it exists as a problem within forensic science, and as such we should try to eliminate it.

Withholding Excessive Information

As previously discussed in this paper, one potential reason that a forensic scientists may have their judgement skewed by bias could be them gaining extra knowledge about a criminal case (Dror and Rosenthal 903; Kassin et al.; Nakhaeizadeh et al. 208). Extra knowledge, for the purposes of this paper, should be defined as any information surrounding a case that should not have any effect on what a particular piece of evidence tells us about the crime (Dror and Rosenthal 903; Kassin et al.; Nakhaeizadeh et al. 208). For example, a forensic scientist does not generally need to know the names of the individuals, both the victim and suspect, in order to interpret the evidence they are given. They also need not know whether the suspect has confessed or if a multitude of other evidences have been found that point toward his guilt. They may not even need to know the exact location of the crime, unless they are charged with both collecting and interpreting the evidence. If we can accept that the more we know about a criminal case then the more likely we are to develop preconceived notions about who is guilty, then we should be able to accept that if we know less about the details surrounding case, we would be less likely to develop those preconceived notions that could in turn lead to confirmation bias. Thusly, withholding extra information should be an important step towards lessening the problem.
Blind Peer Review

Another way to help with the problem of confirmation bias, would be to mandate blind peer review practices of all forensic decisions about evidence (Budowle et al. 803; Kassin et al.). The practice of blind peer review is where another equally qualified individual reviews the same evidence that the original examiner looked at, without knowing what the original examiners conclusions are (Budowle et al. 803; Kassin et al.). The simple idea behind it is that if the original examiner made an error in their examination, then the second examiner should hopefully catch that error and right it (Budowle et al. 803; Kassin et al.). So, if a false conclusion was made by the original examiner as a result of confirmation bias then, as long as the secondary examiner is not biased in the same way, the error will be caught and dealt with (Budowle et al. 803; Kassin et al.). Currently, many forensic science agencies throughout the country already take part in blind peer review, but not all of them do (Budowle et al. 803; Kassin et al.). By mandating its use across all agencies and fields within forensic science, false conclusions about evidence should be decreased, regardless of their origination. Blind peer review does not directly tackle the issue of reducing confirmation bias in forensic scientists, but it should lessen the negative consequences of it.

Better Education and Training
In order to reduce confirmation bias in forensic scientists, they must first be aware of it. By simply reading this report, one will have taken the first steps towards better educating themselves on the topic, however more education and training is needed. The training could come in the form of seminar or required class where confirmation bias is discussed. During this training, emphasis should be given on both the possible negative effects and some of the possible sources of confirmation bias. This should give forensic experts a more practical idea of biased ideas and actions that may already be happening in their jobs and how to spot them.
Prevention methods and tips should be of utmost concern as well.


The criminal justice system often depends on the interpretations of physical evidence given by forensic scientists, and as such these interpretations should be free of subjectivity and bias. Confirmation bias is a major ethical problem that exists within forensic science. Although it is not necessarily known how widespread this problem is, measures must be taken to prevent it now and in the future. Strategies such as education on confirmation bias, mandatory blind peer review and withholding excessive information on criminal cases from forensic examiners should help in doing this. It is also recommended that further research be done to truly discover the extent of the confirmation bias so that the wrongs of the past can be righted and the wrongs of the future be prevented.

Works Cited

Budowle, Bruce, et al. “A Perspective on Errors, Bias, and Interpretation in the Forensic Sciences and
Direction for Continuing Advancement.”
Journal of Forensic Science 54.4 (2009): 798-809.

Dror, Itiel and Robert Rosenthal. “Meta-analytically Quantifying the Reliability and Biasability of Forensic
Journal of Forensic Science 53.4 (2008): 900-903.

Kassin, Saul M., Itiel E. Dror and Jeff Kukucka. “The Forensic Confirmation Bias: Problems, Perspectives, and Proposed Solutions.”
Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition 2.1 (2013): 42-

52. .
Nakhaeizadeh, Sherry, Itiel E. Dror and Ruth M. Morgan. “Cognitive Bias in Forensic Anthropology: Visual
Assessment of Skeletal Remains is Susceptible to Confirmation Bias.”
Science & Justice 54.3

(2014): 208-214. .






assistance with AAR

Assessment Traits

Requires Lopeswrite
Assessment Description
For this assignment, you will compile the revised sections of your AAR (from Topics 2, 4, and 6) and compose the Agency Involvement, Recommendations, Conclusion, and Appendix sections. You will then compose your Executive Summary and submit your final report.

Agency Involvement

One advantage of the AAR is that is specifies the multiple agencies involved in responding to emergency situations and those who participate in cross-team exercises. This provides you the opportunity to consider the scope of the collaboration required in emergency response situations and delineates roles, which is helpful for future planning, training, and exercises. For your AAR, compile a list of all the local, state, and federal agencies that were involved in your selected incident. Critique the cross-agency functioning and recommend how political or legal challenges can be overcome to promote continued cross-agency functioning in the region. (1-2 pages)

Recommendations for Future Mitigation

A substantial benefit of the AAR report is the recommendation section for improving emergency management practice in a given region. You composed several recommendations while drafting your report that covered improvements in emergency operations planning, community preparedness and response, and recovery planning and response. Compile them into one Recommendations for Future Mitigation section and add additional recommendations for mitigation you believe are necessary based on the research your completed. (2-4 pages)


Compose a brief conclusion to summarize the major findings of the report and draw the AAR to a close. (1 page)

AppendixImprovement Plan

Condense your recommendations into an Improvement Plan table (1-2). Use the Improvement Plan Template for this part of the assignment. The Improvement Plan breaks down your recommendations into corrective actions necessary to achieve the objective of the recommendations. For example, if you recommend improved communication between public health officials and emergency management personnel, one corrective action might be to establish a specific communication channel that will help achieve that objective. Think of the IP as a blueprint, with short- and long-term plans, for achieving the objectives of all of your recommendations.

Executive Summary

Finally, compose an Executive Summary for your report. The Executive Summary should summarize the purpose of the report, the major findings, and the major recommendations. It should provide a succinct snapshot of the contents of the AAR. Anyone who reads the Executive Summary should get a clear understanding of the nature of the incident, the contents of the report, and recommendations. (1-2 pages)
Though written last, the Executive Summary appears at the beginning of the AAR. Include a table of contents and appropriate headings to subdivide your report as well.

You can review various AAR formatting samples (scroll down) at:—after-action-reports–real-life-events—8-9-19-final.pdf

General Requirements

Prepare this assignment according to the APA guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.

you are required to submit this assignment to LopesWrite. A link to the LopesWrite technical support articles is located in Class Resources if you need assistance.

image1.emf Appendix A: Improvement Plan Template

Recommendation for Improvement

Corrective Action

Capability Element1

Primary Responsible



1.Recommendation for improvement
(Insert description)

Corrective Action 1

Action 2

Corrective Action 3

2.Recommendation for improvement

Corrective Action 1

Corrective Action 1

1Capability Elements are: planning, organization, equipment, training, or exercise

2014. Grand Canyon University. All Rights Reserved.



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