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Connecticut criminal defense lawyer for eyewitness testimonyWhen a person faces criminal charges, a prosecutor will present evidence that is meant to show that they are guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. This would seem to be a high standard that ensures that a person will only be convicted if there is no uncertainty about whether they actually committed the crime they are accused of. Unfortunately, the reality in many criminal cases is much different, and people are often convicted based solely on the testimony of eyewitnesses. While people’s observations may seem to be reliable, studies have shown that there are many factors that can affect what a witness sees and remembers, and as a result, many people have been wrongfully convicted.

The Problems With Eyewitness Testimony

“You don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” -John Green

Most people trust what they see, and because of this, they will believe witnesses who report that they observed a crime and can identify a suspect. However, many people do not realize how unreliable witnesses’ memories actually are. Scientists who have studied these issues report that there are many reasons why people may fail to properly recall what they believe they saw, and they often involve uncertainty and bias.

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Connecticut criminal law attorney for defendant rightsNobody likes it when other people are not truthful with them. Most people value honesty, and they believe they can tell when someone is lying. However, spotting lies is often much more difficult than one would expect, and even so-called experts who study human behavior have a poor track record of determining when people are not telling the truth in real-world situations. While the inability to recognize lies can be troublesome in people’s daily lives, this issue becomes even more serious when a person is facing criminal charges. Law enforcement officials often build cases against suspects based on their perceptions of whether a person is telling the truth, and during a trial, a judge or jury may base their decisions on whether they find a defendant or a witness to be trustworthy. People’s biases play a significant role in these cases, and this can lead to unjust results.

Research Demonstrates the Difficulty of Detecting Lies

There are a variety of ways that “experts” believe they can recognize when a person is lying. Some believe that people’s “microexpressions,” such as an inadvertent raising of the eyebrows or a slight upturn of the corner of the mouth, betray a person’s true feelings when they are making untrue statements. Others look at a person’s body language and claim that actions such as shrugging the shoulders, shifting the legs, or looking away from a person while speaking are indications of lying.

Some researchers have stated that they have high success rates of detecting lying when performing studies. However, the experiments conducted in laboratories are very different from real-life situations, and outside the lab, experts are usually unable to replicate these results. The average person is even less likely to accurately detect lies; one study found that people were only able to detect lies 54% of the time, which is only slightly better than if they had made guesses based purely on chance. This is true even for people such as police officers or judges who are supposedly experienced in dealing with people who lie. Studies have found that these professionals are no better at detecting deception than anyone else.

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bias, Connecticut criminal defense attorneyYou probably remember that in 2015, a photograph of an article of women’s clothing made headlines because of how it was perceived by different people. Two individuals could look at the same photo and see two different color schemes. Social media outlets were strongly divided into teams of “black and blue” and “white and gold” based on what color the dress appeared to be to a given person. A similar phenomenon made the rounds on social media earlier this year—only this time, it was an audio recording. It turns out that the differences in how people perceive colors, sights, and sounds could be affecting our criminal justice system.

Yanny or Laurel?

When you look at the words “yanny” and “laurel,” there does not seem to be any way that you could confuse one for the other when you hear them. However, a recording from a vocabulary website generated considerable buzz when some visitors to the site had trouble hearing the recording as it was intended to be heard. The recording was posted on the page for the word “laurel,” a noun that usually refers to a wreath worn around the head as a symbol of victory. It turns out that in the slightly distorted, computer-generated speech recording, some people were hearing “yanny”—a word that does not exist.

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