Errors and Failures in Forensic Practice

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


Failures and errors occur in a variety of settings and for a variety of reasons. In some practices, errors present a good learning opportunity with little (or minimal) impact to the lives of those concerned. However, in other areas, errors have disastrous or catastrophic consequences, such as the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor on April 26, 1986. In any given number of forensic disciplines (forensic science, forensic psychology/psychiatry, and forensic criminology among others), such failures can have a profound negative impact on the life or liberty of any or all parties involved. This can occur when experts do not avail themselves of all available evidence, when they are oblivious or unaware of evidence that exists, when experts are not aware of their own shortcomings, or where bias or cognitive distortion taint the expert’s opinion, even in cases where the evidence may be pristine or voluminous.

This chapter examines error from the perspective of forensic practice, followed by a discussion of two forms of cognitive errors: metacognition and patternicity. Some examples will be used throughout to highlight areas of discussion. These will mostly be drawn from the area of forensic science as these are perhaps the most documented and accessible. Finally, some recommendations for reducing error and failure will be offered through the lens of culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMistakes, Errors, and Failures Across Cultures
Subtitle of host publicationNavigating Potentials
EditorsElisabeth Vanderheiden, Claude-Hélène Mayer
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-35574-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-35573-9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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