The Effects of Different Forms of Risk Communication on Judicial Decision Making
International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, Vol. 8, pp. 1-5, 2009
6 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2009 Last revised: 30 May 2014
Date Written: September 2, 2009
When mental health experts provide information to courts on the results of a risk assessment conducted on a defendant or patient, they engage in “risk communication.” We examined the effects of four different forms of risk communication (prediction, categorical, risk factors/risk management, or hybrid) on judges’ (n = 253) perceptions of risk assessment evidence introduced in a case where they must decide whether to release from the hospital an individual found not guilty by reason of insanity. Judges who received information in the risk factors/risk management form were more likely to release the patient than were those who received prediction - based or categorical risk information. Judges with greater experience hearing cases involving risk assessment evidence were also more likely to release. Moreover, judges who had positive attitudes towards risk assessment and social science evidence in general, were more likely to find the risk assessment evidence introduced in the particular case to be understandable, relevant, and dispositive. Implications of the results for how mental health experts communicate risk information to the courts are discussed.
Keywords: Risk communication, risk assessment, risk management, judicial decision making, violence, civil commitment, scientific evidence
JEL Classification: K14, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation