A General Model of Cognitive Bias in Human Judgment and Systematic Review Specific to Forensic Mental Health

Tess M.S. Neal, Pascal Lienert, Emily Denne, Jay P. Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective. Cognitive biases can impact experts’ judgments and decisions.We offer a broad descriptive model of how bias affects human judgment. Although studies have explored the role of cognitive biases and debiasing techniques in forensic mental health, we conducted the first systematic review to identify, evaluate, and summarize the findings. Hypotheses. Given the exploratory nature of this review, we did not test formal hypotheses. General research questions included the proportion of studies focusing on cognitive biases and/or debiasing, the research methods applied, the cognitive biases and debiasing strategies empirically studied in the forensic context, their effects on forensic mental health decisions, and effect sizes. Method. A systematic search of PsycINFO and Google Scholar resulted in 22 records comprising 23 studies in the United States, Canada, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. We extracted data on participants, context, methods, and results. Results. Most studies focused only on cognitive biases (k = 16, 69.6%), with fewer investigating ways to address them (k = 7, 30.4%). Of the 17 studies that tested for biases, 10 found significant effects (58.8%), four found partial effects (23.5%), and three found no effects (17.6%). Foci included general perceptions of biases; adversarial allegiance; bias blind spot; hindsight and confirmation biases; moral disengagement; primacy and recency effects; interview suggestibility; and cross-cultural, racial, and gender biases. Of the seven debiasing-related studies, nearly all (k = 6) focused at least in part on the general perception of debiasing strategies, with three testing for specific effects (i.e., cognitive bias training, consider-the-opposite, and introspection caution), two of which yielded significant effects. Conclusions. Considerable clinical and methodological heterogeneity limited quantitative comparability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-120
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 21 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive bias
  • Debiasing
  • Forensic mental health
  • Implicit bias
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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