Techniques for Mitigating Cognitive Biases in
Fingerprint Identification


Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s holdings in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, which articulated that judges have a gatekeeping responsibility to ensure that all expert testimony is sufficiently reliable, academic critics have reviewed forensic science evidence with greater scrutiny. While fingerprint identification has historically been touted as infallible, recent empirical research has revealed that this is far from the case. Fingerprint examiners do make mistakes—some of which can be attributed to a set of inherently human cognitive biases that we all share. Scholars have increasingly studied the role that cognitive biases can play in fingerprint examiner decisionmaking. Until now, however, scant attention has been paid to ways in which these biases can be mitigated. In this Comment, I contribute to filling that void by identifying and examining debiasing techniques that could be used to combat cognitive biases in the fingerprint identification domain, as well as by suggesting ways in which these techniques could potentially be implemented in forensic science laboratories.

About the Author

Elizabeth J. Reese, J.D., UCLA School of Law, 2012, is a Senior Editor of UCLA Law Review, volume 59.

By uclalaw