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The Magic or Myth of Expertise: A Comparison of Judgment Processes between Forensic Experts and Lay Persons Based on Psychiatric Case Vignettes

Psychiatry, Psychology and Law. Tilgjengelig online: 02 Nov 2011 | 2011


As a continuation of a previous study (Grøndahl, Grønnerød, & Sexton, 2009), we
examined how 120 laypersons and 35 forensic experts (14 psychiatrists and 21
psychologists) differed in their judgment processes of forensic case vignettes. The
vignettes contained descriptions of three components, namely social history, psychiatric
history and criminal offense. We found important differences in how the groups used
information when they rated insanity, risk and need for treatment. The professional
groups emphasized all three case components as opposed to laypersons. As for priming,
all the groups rated lower on risk and need for treatment when the case started with a
positive description. More professional experience was related to lower insanity and
treatment ratings and higher risk ratings. The professionals generally rated less
confidence in their judgments compared to the laypersons. Professionals and lay persons
thus seem to evaluate forensic material differently.