Are Inconclusive Decisions in Forensic Science as Deficient as They Are Said to Be?

Frontiers in Psychology (2019) doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00520

9 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2019

See all articles by Alex Biedermann

Alex Biedermann

University of Lausanne

S. Bozza

Ca Foscari University of Venice - Dipartimento di Economia

Franco Taroni

University of Lausanne

Joëlle Vuille

University of Fribourg

Date Written: March 20, 2019

Abstract

Many quarters of forensic science use reporting formats such as “identification,” “inconclusive,” and “exclusion.” These types of conclusions express opinions as to whether or not a particular person or object is the source of the material or traces of unknown source that is of interest in a given case. Rendering an “inconclusive” conclusion is sometimes criticized as being inadequate because — supposedly — it does not provide recipients of expert information with helpful directions. In this paper, we critically examine this claim using decision theory. We present and defend the viewpoint according to which deciding to render an “inconclusive” conclusion is, on a formal account, not as inadequate as may commonly be thought. Using elements of decision theory from existing accounts on the topic, we show that inconclusive conclusions can actually be viable alternatives with respect to other types of conclusions, such as “identification.”

Keywords: forensic science, evidence evaluation, probabilistic inference, decision making, reporting formats

Suggested Citation

Biedermann, Alex and Bozza, S. and Taroni, Franco and Vuille, Joëlle, Are Inconclusive Decisions in Forensic Science as Deficient as They Are Said to Be? (March 20, 2019). Frontiers in Psychology (2019) doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00520, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3357104

Alex Biedermann (Contact Author)

University of Lausanne ( email )

Faculty of Law, Criminal Justice and Public Admin.
Lausanne, Vaud 1015
Switzerland

HOME PAGE: http://www.unil.ch/unisciences/alexbiedermann

S. Bozza

Ca Foscari University of Venice - Dipartimento di Economia ( email )

Cannaregio 873
Venice, 30121
Italy

Franco Taroni

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier Chambronne
Lausanne, Vaud CH-1015
Switzerland

Joëlle Vuille

University of Fribourg ( email )

Avenue de l'Europe 20
CH-1700 Fribourg
Switzerland

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