Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
In Doubt

In Doubt

The Psychology of the Criminal Justice Process

Dan Simon

ISBN 9780674046153

Publication date: 06/20/2012

Request exam copy

The criminal justice process is unavoidably human. Police detectives, witnesses, suspects, and victims shape the course of investigations, while prosecutors, defense attorneys, jurors, and judges affect the outcome of adjudication. In this sweeping review of psychological research, Dan Simon shows how flawed investigations can produce erroneous evidence and why well-meaning juries send innocent people to prison and set the guilty free.

The investigator’s task is genuinely difficult and prone to bias. This often leads investigators to draw faulty conclusions, assess suspects’ truthfulness incorrectly, and conduct coercive interrogations that can lead to false confessions. Eyewitnesses’ identification of perpetrators and detailed recollections of criminal events rely on cognitive processes that are often mistaken and can easily be skewed by the investigative procedures used. In the courtroom, jurors and judges are ill-equipped to assess the accuracy of testimony, especially in the face of the heavy-handed rhetoric and strong emotions that crimes arouse.

Simon offers an array of feasible ways to improve the accuracy of criminal investigations and trials. While the limitations of human cognition will always be an obstacle, these reforms can enhance the criminal justice system’s ability to decide correctly whom to release and whom to punish.

Praise

  • Dan Simon has a superb command of the research in cognitive science, and how it affects the very real world of the criminal justice process. In Doubt shows how universal fallacies in reasoning and blind spots in perception and memory can send innocent people to prison and let guilty ones walk free, and promotes reforms to make the system more truly just.

    —Elizabeth Loftus, University of California, Irvine

Author

  • Dan Simon is Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Southern California.

Book Details

  • 416 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

Recommendations