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Understanding forensic expert evaluative evidence: A study of the perception of verbal expressions of the strength of evidence

Arscott, E; Morgan, RM; Meakin, GE; French, JC; (2017) Understanding forensic expert evaluative evidence: A study of the perception of verbal expressions of the strength of evidence. Science and Justice , 57 (3) pp. 221-227. 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.02.002. Green open access

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Abstract

Verbal expressions of evidential strength are routinely used when presenting forensic expert evaluative evidence. The degree to which these verbal expressions are interpreted uniformly among different individuals requires further empirical study. This study focussed on groups of individuals with different roles within the criminal justice system and individuals with varying degrees of expertise and knowledge. Three groups of individuals were identified: laypeople, legal professionals and those with some forensic or investigative knowledge. The participants in the study (n = 230) were provided with a case summary to which a verbal expression of the strength of evidence was randomly assigned. Participants were subsequently invited to indicate their perception of the strength of the evidence on a scale that was provided. Generally, across the study groups, the trend was one of increased perceived strength of evidence as the intended strength of the verbal expression was increased, with some notable exceptions. In general, there was good concordance between the groups in the way the different expressions were perceived. It was found that participants performed poorly when it came to differentiating between expressions at the ‘strong’ end of the scale (‘strong’, ‘very strong’ and ‘extremely strong’). The findings resonate with calls for validated and robust communication frameworks for evaluative opinions. Further empirical research in this area is warranted and that such research can represent an important contribution towards improving the communication and presentation of forensic evidence.

Type: Article
Title: Understanding forensic expert evaluative evidence: A study of the perception of verbal expressions of the strength of evidence
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.02.002
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.scijus.2017.02.002
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 The Chartered Society of Forensic Sciences. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved. This manuscript version is made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Non-derivative 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0). This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work for personal and non-commercial use providing author and publisher attribution is clearly stated. Further details about CC BY licenses are available at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/. Access may be initially restricted by the publisher.
Keywords: Verbal scale; Likelihood ratio; Perception; Strength of evidence
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1540999
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