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Naturalistic Decision Making in Forensic Science: Toward a Better Understanding of Decision Making by Forensic Team Leaders

Authors

  • Ira Helsloot Ph.D.,

    1. Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Public Administration, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
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  • Jelle Groenendaal M.Sc.

    1. Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Public Administration, De Boelelaan 1081, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
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Additional information and reprint requests:
Ira Helsloot, Ph.D.
Professor of Crisis Management and the Politics of Safety
Free University Amsterdam, Faculty of Social Sciences
Department of Public Administration
De Boelelaan 1081
1081 HV Amsterdam
the Netherlands
E-mail: i.helsloot@fsw.vu.nl

Abstract

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.

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