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Psychological InjuriesForensic Assessment, Treatment, and Law$
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William J. Koch, Kevin S. Douglas, Tonia L. Nicholls, and Melanie L. O'Neill

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195188288

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195188288.001.0001

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Common Vulnerabilities in Psychological Evidence

Common Vulnerabilities in Psychological Evidence

(p.113) 5 Common Vulnerabilities in Psychological Evidence
Psychological Injuries

William J. Koch

Kevin S. Douglas (Contributor Webpage)

Tonia L. Nicholls

Melanie L. O'Neill

Oxford University Press

Mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are presumed to be valid constructs and are relevant to the legal arena of psychological injuries. This chapter reviews vulnerabilities in psychological evidence from a conceptual perspective. First, it describes how biases and decision-making heuristics may affect forensic assessments. This is followed by a discussion of the implications of assumed base rates of mental health conditions for forensic assessment. It then discusses the differential reliability of structured versus clinical interviews. Problems in the assessment of psychological injuries are reviewed from a hypothesis testing perspective, discussing the following topics—identifying a psychological injury, attributing causality, determination of functional disability, and estimation of prognosis. In addition, the limitations of psychological tests with ethnic minorities are reviewed. Finally, suggestions for cross-examination of expert evidence and promising areas for research are presented. Suggestions for limiting these vulnerabilities within forensic assessments are also provided.

Keywords:   post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, psychological injuries, biases, decision-making, forensic assessment, mental health

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