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Testing for Potential Contextual Bias Effects During the Verification Stage of the ACE-V Methodology when Conducting Fingerprint Comparisons*


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    Funding for this project (#428-25-03) was made possible by a research grant from the Midwest Forensics Resource Center (MFRC), located in Ames, Iowa.

Additional information and reprint requests:
Glenn Langenburg, M.S.
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension
1430 Maryland Avenue East
St. Paul, MN 55106


Abstract:  This study was conducted to assess if fingerprint specialists could be influenced by extraneous contextual information during a verification process. Participants were separated into three groups: a control group (no contextual information was given), a low bias group (minimal contextual information was given in the form of a report prompting conclusions), and a high bias group (an internationally recognized fingerprint expert provided conclusions and case information to deceive this group into believing that it was his case and conclusions). A similar experiment was later conducted with laypersons. The results showed that fingerprint experts were influenced by contextual information during fingerprint comparisons, but not towards making errors. Instead, fingerprint experts under the biasing conditions provided significantly fewer definitive and erroneous conclusions than the control group. In contrast, the novice participants were more influenced by the bias conditions and did tend to make incorrect judgments, especially when prompted towards an incorrect response by the bias prompt.