Monday, August 1, 2011

Confirmation Bias, the Secret Psychological Reason for Wrongful Prosecutions and Convictions - Cognitive Psychology and the Legal System and Process

I have been discussing the Amanda Knox and Casey Anthony cases in my blog. Both cases attracted worldwide attention because of perceived injustices. In the Amanda Knox case, there was an injustice at the hands of the Italian legal system which is not nearly as good as ours. In the Casey Anthony case, the legal system worked, despite the public perception of guilt. Both cases can be explained by a problem known as "confirmation bias" which has as its roots cognitive therapy.

It is a very very good reason for preserving our jury system as it is in America, because, rest assured, injustices occur at the hands of the most well meaning judges, prosecutors, and jurors in America. These cases, and knowledge of confirmation bias, and how it affected the Amanda Knox and Casey Anthony cases is a good lesson for judges, prosecutors, and policeman.

"Confirmation bias" which is where people look at selective facts and look at particular facts in a way that tends to confirm their pre-disposition to reach a pre-determined result. Some people call this tunnel vision. It is really explained by "cognitive therapy" and if one really wants to understand this, I highly recommend reading a book titled "Feeling Good" by David D. Burns, MD. a top psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania and leading expert in the field of cognitive therapy. While the book is written to help combat depression, and was proven to be more effective than anti-depressant medications (in most cases), it helps explain how we think and why we reach certain conclusions, including whether someone is guilty or innocent.

Just as self-awareness of this problem (in how we think and interpret objective facts) can be very effective in solving depression, in the context of the legal system, it can also help us avoid miscarriages of justice. Further work needs to be done on the application of cognitive therapy in the legal field.

We are the people who have the courage to stand up to the wrong of our country and make it right!

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  1. I am very shocked at how broad and advanced a range of fields you know about. Now phsycology. It is a very rare thing to have such a wide variety of knowledge. I predict very big things for you in the future.

  2. Everyday, people are released from prison who were sentenced to death, life, or really bad sentences who are absolutely innocent. It is that "rush to judgment", "tunnel vision" which you talk about. WE NEED TO ELIMINATE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR FEAR OF EXECUTING INNOCENT PEOPLE.