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Asymmetrical scepticism toward criminal evidence: The role of goal- and belief-consistency

Journal article
Authors Tamara Marksteiner
Karl Ask
Marc-André Reinhard
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Applied Cognitive Psychology
Volume 25
Pages 541-547
Publication year 2011
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 541-547
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1002/acp.1719
Subject categories Psychology

Abstract

Previous demonstrations of asymmetrical scepticism (i.e., that investigators perceive evidence inconsistent [vs. consistent] with the focal hypothesis of a case as less reliable) have failed to account for the underlying mechanism. This study examined whether inconsistent evidence is discredited due to its inconsistency with a prior belief or because it conflicts with the goal to reach closure in a case. Police trainees (N = 107) were presented with a homicide case and judged the reliability of incriminating or exonerating evidence while entertaining a ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ hypothesis concerning a suspect. Asymmetrical scepticism was observed in the guilty condition, but not in the innocent condition, partially supporting the goal-consistency explanation. Implications for the organization of criminal investigations are discussed.

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