Are forensic experts already biased before adversarial legal parties hire them?

Tess Neal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This survey of 206 forensic psychologists tested the "filtering" effects of preexisting expert attitudes in adversarial proceedings. Results confirmed the hypothesis that evaluator attitudes toward capital punishment influence willingness to accept capital case referrals from particular adversarial parties. Stronger death penalty opposition was associated with higher willingness to conduct evaluations for the defense and higher likelihood of rejecting referrals from all sources. Conversely, stronger support was associated with higher willingness to be involved in capital cases generally, regardless of referral source. The findings raise the specter of skewed evaluator involvement in capital evaluations, where evaluators willing to do capital casework may have stronger capital punishment support than evaluators who opt out, and evaluators with strong opposition may work selectively for the defense. The results may provide a partial explanation for the "allegiance effect" in adversarial legal settings such that preexisting attitudes may contribute to partisan participation through a self-selection process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0154434
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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