In 2009, a report released by the US National Academy of Sciences revealed glaring disparities between the perceived value of forensic evidence in the courtroom and its true underlying scientific validity. In the 2010s, psychological science, along with other social and life sciences (including medicine), had to face the fact that much of its published research could not be trusted. This talk addresses how these “crises of credibility” happened, what is being done to resolve them, and why the current solutions may “stick” whereas past attempts to improve these sciences have failed.
Barbara Spellman is Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia Law School in Charlottesville. Her research interests lie on the intersection of psychology and law (e.g., Behavioral Decision Making and Law; Empirical Methods in Law). Spellman received her law degree from NYU in 1982. In the mid-1980s she practiced tax law at Chadbourne & Parke in New York City and worked as a writer and editor at Matthew Bender Company. She then moved to UCLA and earned a PhD in cognitive psychology. Her psychology research focused on memory, analogical reasoning and causal reasoning. Now she writes about judicial reasoning, forensics and the replication crisis in science. Spellman has published in both psychology journals and law reviews. She edited a special issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (2010) on emerging trends in psychology and law research. From 2011-15 she served as editor-in-chief of Perspectives on Psychological Science. Her book (with Michael Saks), The Psychological Foundations of Evidence Law, was published in 2016.