Courtroom Psychology Tests May Be Unreliable, Study Finds

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Publish Date:
February 16, 2020
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The New York Times (AP)
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Summary

Courts are not properly screening out unreliable psychological and IQ tests, allowing junk science to be used as evidence, researchers have concluded. Such tests can sway judges or juries and influence whether someone gets custody of a child or is eligible for bail or capital punishment.

The scientists looked at hundreds of different psychological tests used in recent court cases and found that a third of those exams weren’t reviewed in the field’s most prominent manuals. Of those that were reviewed, just 40% were graded favorably. Nearly a quarter were deemed unreliable.

Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and psychology at Stanford University who was not involved in the study, said that he’s received unsolicited catalogs advertising new psychological tests from vendors for many years. Those brochures used to include data about test effectiveness, but “by the end of the 1990s those numbers had disappeared.”

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