Human Factors in the Courtroom

Human Factors in the Courtroom

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This new reference work highlights the myths, misunderstandings, and pseudo-scientific theories concerning human factors in the courtroom and related situations. Using traffic accident cases and driving behaviors as examples, the purpose of the book is to contrast these myths and theories with the large body of solid scientific research to show how many widely accepted beliefs are flawed and invalid in spite of their widespread admissibility in our nation's courtrooms. In the first three chapters, you will learn about the a€œjunk sciencea€ that is so prevalent in our court system. These chapters include descriptions of what is admissible a€œscientific evidencea€ and what it is not, subjectivity and bias, the influence of inaccurate preconceived ideas such as the questionable concept of the a€œaverage or reasonably prudent persona€, misuse and misunderstanding of psychology and psychiatry, and other deeply flawed efforts to a€œread the mind.a€ As you study these chapters, you will come to realize that it is quite impossible to know or predict what someone was thinking, is thinking, or will be thinking despite the promises made by many practitioners of what are clearly pseudosciences. You will learn about electronic (e.g., polygraphs, MRIs) and human (e.g., psychotherapists, criminal profilers, psychics, hypnotists) efforts to a€œread the minda€ and examine the solid scientific evidence that indicates the flaws and poor or non-existent validity of most of them. You will learn how stereotypes, preconceptions, and prejudice affect procedures such as lineups and eyewitness testimony often resulting in serious errors in administered justice. You will also learn how fallible are our memories and how internal and external influences such as length of time since occurrence, change in personal value system or ideology, and the possibility of false memories, affect everyone involved in court cases.The next three chapters concentrate on the factors that influence an individual's driving performance. You will discover which ones (e.g., the ubiquitous a€œperceptiona€“reaction timea€ a€“ the PRT) are scientifically measurable and which ones are not, how research is designed to avoid bias and subjectivity, and how to evaluate experiments and studies for validity. You will study the best modern laboratory research and learn about its strengths and limitations. Topics covered in these chapters include direct and indirect influences on our cognitive powers, motor skills, and sensory and perceptual abilities as they influence driving behaviors, including alcohol, drugs, fatigue, age, and environmental distractions such as the use of cellular telephones.The final chapter summarizes the previous research and demonstrates the need for a critical consideration of the pseudoscience contaminating much of our judicial proceedings. It also shows the need for a greater understanding of science and the scientific method on the part of lawyers and judges. It suggests how this might be implemented and gives suggestions for changes to our current court system including the creation of a Daubert Tribunal to evaluate the quality of scientific evidence. This book should encourage the reader to constantly revaluate the scientific quality of evidence and to delve deeper into the extensive list of the high quality research cited throughout this book.Several appendices describe the limits of light measurements and photography in forensic evaluations of automobile accidents as well as the availability of supplementary information such as advisory manuals.Among the most frequently cited is the MUTCD, or the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (Anonymous, 2003)i and supplements to it such as the Traffic Control Devices Handbook (Pline, 2001). The MUTCD (the cover of which isanbsp;...

Title:Human Factors in the Courtroom
Author: William R. Uttal
Publisher:Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company - 2006

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