• forensic science;
  • naturalistic decision making;
  • recognition-primed decision making;
  • image theory;
  • contextual bias

Abstract:  This study uses the naturalistic decision-making (NDM) perspective to examine how Dutch forensic team leaders (i.e., the officers in charge of criminal forensic research from the crime scene until the use of laboratory assistance) make decisions in real-life settings and identifies the contextual factors that might influence those decisions. First, a focus group interview was conducted to identify four NDM mechanisms in day-to-day forensic decision making. Second, a serious game was conducted to examine the influence of three of these contextual mechanisms. The results uncovered that forensic team leaders (i) were attracted to obtain further information when more information was initially made available, (ii) were likely to devote more attention to emotionally charged cases, and (iii) used not only forensic evidence in the decision making but also tactical, unverified information of the police inquiry. Interestingly, the measured contextual influences did not deviate significantly from a control group of laypeople.