Context effects in forensic science: A review and application of the science of science to crime laboratory practice in the United States

Michael Saks, D. M. Risinger, R. Rosenthal, W. C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

85 Scopus citations


This article discusses the phenomenon of "context effects" by reviewing the findings and practices of a range of scientific fields, including astronomy, physics, biology, medicine, and especially the relevant research and theory from psychology. Context information, such as expectations about what one is supposed to see or conclude, has been found to have a small but relentless impact on human perception, judgment, and decision-making. The article then considers the vulnerability of forensic science practice to context effects, and concludes by suggesting that forensic science adopt practices familiar in other fields of scientific work, in particular blind or double-blind testing and also the use of evidence line-ups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-90
Number of pages14
JournalScience and Justice - Journal of the Forensic Science Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003



  • Bias
  • Blind testing
  • Context effects
  • Evidence line-ups
  • Expectancy effects
  • Experimenter effects
  • Forensic science
  • Observer effects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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