College of LAS « Illinois

Psychology

Computer Animation in Court Colored by Bias, Researchers Say

A man sitting on a chair

A courtroom jury views a computer animation of a vehicle accident or heinous crime. Does it help bring a conviction or acquittal? With no clear standards for animations that re-create incidents, the verdict is still out, and, for now, it may depend on which side created the simulation, researchers say.

Psychologists discovered that animations such as re-creations of a crime can double an already troubling hindsight bias, often leading jurists to exaggerate the predictability of past events.

By viewing a computer-animated re-creation of an event, a person's confidence is heightened—but not necessarily accurately. It provides movements in a sequence of events as reconstructed by a prosecution, plaintiff, or defense witness to reconfirm or heighten a jurist's hindsight bias that "I knew it all along."

LAS psychology professor Neal J. Roese and his colleagues found that animations made "people more punitive and more likely to hand out harsh penalties."

Roese says "the truth is that all reconstructions of evidence contain inherent imprecision."

Fall/Winter 2006–07