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Study finds some psychology tests used in court may be invalid

People in Virginia who are facing felony charges might be required to take IQ or psychology tests that are not well-regarded by psychologists. According to a study that appeared in “Psychological Science in the Public Interest,” around 33% of tests used by courts did not receive a review in major psychological publications. Among those that did, around one-quarter were considered unreliable, and just 40% were favorably reviewed.

The study used data from 876 court cases throughout the country from 2016 to 2018. It found that the most widely used test, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, is largely favorably regarded by psychologists. However, the second most widely applied test is the inkblot or Rorschach test, and many professionals consider it much too ambiguous. One criminal defense attorney pointed out that judges and attorneys rely on psychologists giving expert testimony to provide professional guidance regarding the reliability of these tests.

The validity of science used in the courtroom has been under question before. A 2009 study found that poor analysis in forensic science may have resulted in the conviction of innocent people. Despite an outcry for reform, there are still many problems. One attorney has pointed out that judges and attorneys rely on psychologists to determine the validity of tests they support as evidence in a trial.

People who are facing charges, whether they are for burglary, drug crimes, white-collar crimes or other felonies or misdemeanors may want to consult an attorney about defense strategy. This could include looking at the use of any type of testing, how forensic evidence was handled and tested, whether the search and seizure was conducted legally and whether the person was coerced in any way. Witness statements and other evidence might also be called into question, and some evidence could be dismissed before the trial.

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