Date of Degree

2-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Psychology

Advisor

C. Gabrielle Salfati

Committee Members

Maria Haberfeld

Charles Stone

Jon Shane

William McKnight

Subject Categories

Psychology

Keywords

investigative decision making, critical thinking, thinking styles, law enforcement experience, confirmation bias, criminal investigations

Abstract

Decision making is an important aspect of the investigative work performed by law enforcement officers. The processes involved, though, including the collection, interpretation, and use of evidence, can be influenced by biases in thinking and reasoning such as confirmation bias. This issue could contribute to missed leads on the offender responsible for committing a crime when investigative efforts become focused on the wrong individuals. This study is interested in whether law enforcement officers with certain thinking skills and individual characteristics are better equipped to avoid such issues. More specifically, the study was designed to analyze whether there is an association between a law enforcement officer’s critical thinking, thinking styles, level of experience in law enforcement, and the decision-making approach they take when presented with a mock investigative task. Using a sample of individuals with experience working in law enforcement and a sample of students who indicated an interest in pursuing a career in law enforcement, three decision-making approach aspects were examined to gain insight into their ability to avoid confirmation bias. These included their perceptions of a main suspect described in a criminal case scenario, their perceptions of the evidence collected during the investigation, and their prioritization of additional evidence and lines of inquiry to pursue in the case. The results of the study suggested that certain aspects of critical thinking may be associated with a reduced susceptibility to confirmation bias in investigative decision making. This finding offers a helpful lead towards identifying characteristics that may be beneficial for investigators, and offers support for the utility and importance of incorporating critical thinking in law enforcement training.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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