Forensic Confirmation Bias: Is Consider-the-Opposite an Effective Debiasing Strategy?

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Griffith, Rebecca L.
Washburn University
Department of Psychology
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Confirmation bias is the tendency to remember or seek out information in a way that confirms one’s hypothesis rather than seeking out information that disproves the hypothesis. A large body of research suggests that confirmation bias is present in forensic contexts (i.e., police investigations). However, less is known about confirmation bias in forensic mental health evaluations (FMHE). The purpose of the present study is to gain a better understanding of confirmation bias in FMHE and test a debiasing strategy that may be useful in counteracting confirmation bias effects. Forty-four forensic clinicians were asked to consider hypothetical vignettes and select information they would like to see next to uncover if they are using a confirmatory search (i.e., engaging in confirmation bias). Next, a debiasing strategy, considerthe- opposite, was tested. Results indicated forensic clinicians were susceptible to confirmation bias (p = .001) and the de-biasing intervention was effective in reducing this phenomenon (p = .036). The de-biasing intervention was brief and has the potential to generalize to a variety of clinical assessments and settings.