New Study Reveals That “Junk Science” Psychological Tests Are Being Used to Convict and Sentence Defendants
A new study indicates that the courts are not properly screening out unreliable IQ and psychological tests and this is allowing junk science to be used as evidence to sway juries and judges, as well as influence whether a criminal defendant is convicted and what their punishment is. The study looked at hundreds of different psychological tests used in court cases and found that one-third of them were never reviewed in the field’s prominent manuals, while, of those that were reviewed, only 40 percent were considered to be favorable and almost 25 percent were considered to be outright unreliable.
While what is considered to be junk science should be filtered out by the courts pursuant to the federal rules of evidence, it is simply not happening, and this is affecting criminal injustice on a massive scale, as legal challenges to the validity of these tests is occurring in less than three percent of all cases. Unfortunately, judges and lawyers rely on psychologists to regulate their field and perform due diligence to ensure that and tests presented as evidence in court are accurate, but these experts simply are not doing so.
How Are These Tests Used in Court?
These tests – along with behavioral observations, interviews, case studies, etc. – are used to help understand the mental and psychological health of individuals and their criminal intent, dangerousness, etc. in a forensic setting to assist legal decision makers (such as juries) by providing them with clinical and scientific data from the assessments.
Most Commonly Used Tests in Courts
The study also looked at the most commonly used psychological tests used in court cases in general. Between 2016 and 2018, the most commonly used test was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, with the second most being the Rorschach test, which was first developed in 1921 and is very controversial, being generally regarded as both dangerously subjective and ambiguous.
We Have Long Known This Is A Problem, And It Still Isn’t Fixed
This research is extremely important because it reveals that we as a society are allowing for the fate of those in the criminal justice system to be determined by these questionable tests. However, it is by no means the first critique on the issue: In 2009, the National Research Council published an extensive report on how faulty forensics science analyses could be contributing to a number of wrongful convictions of innocent people each year.
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