Minimizing Bias in Forensic Science Decision Making


10 Hours


Program Description

This self-paced online professional training program focuses on minimizing bias in Forensic Science decision making. This program covers issues relating to cognitive bias and processing. It then connects the cognitive theory to practical and specific issues in forensic decision making. In addition to knowledge about the cognitive factors in forensic decision making, the program also provides practical solutions to address weaknesses as well as best practices to enhance forensic practices.

This program is directly relevant to the document recently adopted by the National Commission on Forensic Science (NCFS). The practical implementation of this document (“Ensuring That Forensic Analysis Is Based Upon Task-Relevant Information”) is presented and discussed, as are the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science.

Conducting forensic examinations is similar to other expert domains that require perception and interpretation of information, such as in the military, medical, and financial domains. Even in everyday life humans constantly process information. Information is perceived, encoded, represented, transformed, stored, retrieved, compared to other information, evaluated and assessed, to name just a few cognitive processes. The human mind is not a camera, as we actively process and compare information. It is naïve to think that we passively construct and experience reality, and perceive the environment as ‘it really is’.

We engage in a variety of cognitive processes that organize and structure the information as it comes in from the external world. Information is then further interpreted and processed in ways that highly depend on the human mind and cognitive factors. As we dynamically process information, we affect what we see, how we interpret and evaluate it, and our decision making process. Thus, to enhance expert performance and understand that different factors may affect their work, especially in a highly specialized domain such as forensics, one needs to take into account the role of the human mind and cognitive factors (Dror, 2015).

Although forensic experts receive comprehensive training, there is a lack of training in psychological and cognitive elements involved in forensic bias and decision making. Consequently, there is a lack of systematic acknowledgment and opportunities in professional development in the influence of human cognition on forensic work. This workshop is a major step towards addressing training in cognitive science and its involvement in forensic decision making.

The fee for this training program is $395 and includes all materials. Participants should expect to commit approximately 10 hours to complete this training program.

Intended Audience

This training program is aimed at CSI, forensic examiners, QA and managers across forensic science domains.
This training program is appropriate for beginner, intermediate, and advanced level staff.

Note: If you are a mental health professional and are looking for this course with CE credit and applications to Forensic Mental Health Assessment, please click here

Upon completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  • Describe background information regarding the human mind and cognitive system
  • Describe how information and knowledge is acquired, processed, represented, encoded, stored, utilized, retrieved, compared, and evaluated
  • Describe how decisions are made
  • Demonstrate the connection between information and a variety of forensic decision making processes that forensic examiners typically use
  • Describe how cognitive factors can be utilized to make forensic experts’ work more efficient
  • Describe the pitfalls and errors that can occur in forensic decision making

About Dr. Itiel Dror


Dr. Itiel Dror is a cognitive neuroscientist who received his Ph.D. at Harvard (1994) in the area of cognitive factors in human expert performance. Since his Ph.D. over twenty years ago, Dr. Dror has been researching this area, and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles specifically looking at cognitive factors that mediate human expert performance. His insights and understanding of the human brain and cognitive system underpin the workshop. Without such deep knowledge, it is not possible to properly deliver a workshop on the ‘cognitive factors’. Dr. Dror has been working in the forensic domain for over a decade. In fact, he is the person who introduced the human and cognitive factors to the forensic community and has made this issue central in forensic science.

Over the last decade Dr. Dror has worked with a variety of forensic laboratories across the US, in which he has visited and shadowed examiners doing casework, reviewed SOPs and practices. Dr. Dror was the Chair of the OSAC Human Factor group (the new ‘SWGs’ organized under NIST/NIJ), which is responsible for the cognitive factor issues across all the OSAC forensic domains. The National Commission on Forensic Science has recognized Dr. Dror as the leader in this area and has asked him to present to the commission (as well as appointed him to their Human Factors subcommittee), as well as many other forensic bodies who have solicited Dr. Dror. The recommendations on cognitive and human factors of the NCFS and the NAS report, and other bodies is mainly based on the research of Dr. Dror. He is also a member of the AAAS (The American Association for the Advancement of Science) Advisory Committee on Forensic Science Assessment (a project in which the AAAS will conduct an analysis of the underlying scientific bases for the forensic tools and methods currently used).

Dr. Itiel Dror has a proven track record in successfully delivering workshops, specifically on ‘Cognitive Factors in Making Forensic Comparisons’, to dozens of forensic laboratories. He is the only person who has the combined cognitive and forensic expertise to deliver this training. His workshops on this specific issue have been delivered with great success to the FBI, LAPD, NYPD, SFPD, Boston PD, Kansas, and many other forensic laboratories across the US.

As the world leader in this area, Dr. Dror has also been commissioned to deliver this workshop in a variety of countries across the world (Australia, Finland, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, as well as other countries –not to mention numerous police forces the UK). The success of his workshops and his training in this area has been recognized by the professional bodies: Dr. Dror has received the ABP Annual Award for ‘Excellence in Training’ for his workshops on cognitive factors in making forensic comparisons. The purpose of the award is to recognize excellence in demonstrating how applying an understanding of the science of human behaviour can impact and deliver practical value to organizations. The judges commented that Dr. Dror’s workshops are: “Truly outstanding and inspiring”, “A highly rigorous application of relevant theoretical frameworks”, “Truly innovative, breaking entirely new ground in a most challenging context”, “Internationally ground-breaking impact already being used around the world”, “Entirely focused on application of conceptual models – underpinned by deep research”, and “Impact is highly impressive”.

No prior knowledge in cognition is required. This program covers a variety of issues specifically chosen as relevant to enhance the work of forensic evaluators. Three primary areas are covered:

1. Background knowledge, 2. Domain applications, and 3. Domain implications. 

Background Knowledge

Background knowledge will cover general principles and mechanisms of the human mind and cognition as they relate to bias. These issues include:
a. The human brain and how that translates to human performance and how we process information.
b. How information processing underlies all aspects of perception and cognition in general and in expertise.
c. Specific issues in information processing, such as: Knowledge representation, Allocation of resources, Perception, Judgement and Decision making.
d. Architectural constraints in cognition, including: Limits in information processing load, Malfunctions, and Lack of control.

Domain Implications

Domain Implications will tie both Background Knowledge and Domain Applications to specific issues regarding how forensic decision making is conducted.

In addition to specific ways to enhance forensic decision making, this course will try to provide more in depth tools to the participants. Such tools will accompany the participants in the future and will enable them to enhance and enrich their professional abilities. This part will also include discussion of court cases that were challenging and highlighted cognitive factors in forensic decision making. The recent National Commission on Forensic Science’s document on “Ensuring That Forensic Analysis Is Based Upon Task Relevant Information” and other recent developments in OSAC, NIST, and DoJ will be discussed and integrated into the course. In addition, Dr. Patricia Zapf provides commentary and discussion of how these principles apply to forensic mental health evaluation.

“A lot of what was discussed is extremely relevant to our work – and the other domain examples showed so much more about the subjects. Having a different perspective and new solutions/ideas was refreshing – it definitely aids in our approach of our job.” – Crime Lab Specialist
“Dr. Dror makes complex material easy to understand. His examples make it easy to grasp the issues and see how they apply in different contexts.” -Fingerprint Examiner
“The information is geared specifically to forensics which made this course very interesting and informative. I am thinking about ways to change my practice.” -Forensic Examiner

Group Training Inquiries

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