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Critical Analysis of Decision-making Regarding Bias

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Decision-making is a mental process that every individual encounters every day. Bias is present in the majority of decisions we are faced with. Bias is defined as, ‘disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is closed-minded, prejudicial, or unfair’ (En.wikipedia.org, 2020). Bias can have a negative or positive effect when collecting thoughts and opinions and then applying these to fulfill the decision.

Understanding bias decision-making, a case from 2017 demonstrates how bias can commonly be formed during the investigative process. On the 12th of September 2017, the body of 45-year-old Sharon Fade was discovered in an overgrown field in Houghton Regis. Evidence provided that the initial information given was that the woman’s throat had been slit by a broken glass bottle that was located near to the scene. On arrival, the first indication the Police Officers received suggested that the incident could be about the woman’s partner Sean Robinson. Through third-party neighbors informed Officers at the scene that they had heard arguing from the couple’s home. With this being the Investigators’ first lead, Robinson was arrested for further questioning regarding his partner’s death. Throughout the investigation Robinsons’ behavior was abnormally peculiar as he ‘remained calm and collected’ and his controlling behavior began to show as Officers began to search for evidence. (Mitchell, 2020) Investigators were focused on revealing the truth that Robinson was the chief suspect and responsible for this crime however when evidence came to light Ms. Fade had committed suicide with leads suggesting that she suffered from depression and had become reliant on alcohol. (The Scotsman, 2019) Bias was carried out throughout the investigation process with this being shown in the following research.

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Under bias decision-making, there are various forms of bias decisions that can develop depending on the way an individual may approach or interpret events in ways that can lead to unfair and closed-minded attitudes. The majority of all classifications of bias decisions work in tandem with each other which can encourage a disproportionate judgment leading to you ‘strongly agreeing or strongly disagreeing’ to something that has occurred. It demonstrates an individual’s innate personal cognitive make-up and natural strengths and weaknesses. Confirmation bias exemplifies ‘the tendency to search for, interprets, focus on, remember information in a way that confirms one’s perceptions’ (Blockley, 2019) which illustrate, that when you are presented with the initial information when arriving at a scene, the information you are looking for or that stands out the most remains more favored and focused on throughout the Investigation, this can also be influenced from scenarios that you have previously been involved in as you have developed your own opinions and beliefs on situations. There can be a positive when using this bias, but it does come with limitations. The only feasible way in which this bias can be viewed as a positive is when an Investigator leans on previous knowledge and experience and applies their findings to their current case highlighting similarities and enabling them to process information more time efficiently. Limitations of Confirmation bias are that it can sometimes provide a barrier between the information we want to know and the information we don’t. Naturally, if we have strong beliefs on the information we have received it can negatively impact the way we use other information which could lead to understanding and solving a case. (Verywell Mind, 2020) Another limitation of this bias can be when an Investigator is overly focused on one aspect of a case. This could lead to focalization on one specific piece of evidence while ignoring other potentially vital evidence which could lead to wrongful arrest. This type of bias can occasionally encourage you to interpret information received to help you go down the Investigative process in a way that is easiest for you. Interpreting information to confirm what you want the result to be can be influenced by Confirmation bias. Using Confirmation bias as an initial approach when arriving at a scene can be time-consuming and the lines of inquiry must be explored on arrival at the scene to reduce false allegations and not allowing assumptions to be made. Resources that encounter the same findings agree that when using Confirmation bias when deciding that ‘Once we have formed an opinion, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring, or rejecting input that casts doubt on it’ (Psychology Today, 2018). This agrees with my statement that we become fixated with our opinions and beliefs we have. The Academic resource which also provides evidence to match my view on Confirmation bias is from (Cipriano and Gruca, 2014) stating, ‘One form of confirmation bias is the tendency for people to ignore information that is inconsistent with their current beliefs’ this being presented shows how frequent people can be caught up in using Confirmation bias and demonstrates an understanding of how all our personal opinions and beliefs can encourage us to ignore other important contributing factors that could lead to the correct findings. Another study that provides key evidence to agree with my thoughts on the impacts of Confirmation bias is a Journal by (Salman, Turhan, and Vegas, 2019) stating ‘Confirmation bias is a person’s tendency to look for evidence that strengthens his/her prior beliefs rather than refutes them’ and ‘Psychology research suggests that time pressure could trigger confirmation bias’, this again states and maintains my theory of Confirmation bias as once someone becomes fixated to their own beliefs on something they will work towards getting the result that suits them and ignores any other crucial evidence. For an Investigator, once a suspect has been arrested, they have twenty-four hours to gather admissible evidence. Due to a short period pressure can emerge which stated above ‘triggers confirmation bias’ this supports my theory as Investigators can become more focused on thinking of previous scenarios they have encountered that they are fixated upon to quickly get through the current Investigation due to the pressure they are under which can be led by Confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is shown in the case previously stated, from receiving the initial information from third parties’ Investigators automatically assumed that the woman’s partner was the chief suspect, as the first witness statement provided intelligence that the couple was heard previously arguing which could indicate the investigator’s suspicion that this could have escalated to the murder of Sharon Fade. Officers at the scene arrested her partner Dean Robinson on suspicion of murder; during the arrest, Robinsons’ mannerisms came across as abnormally nonchalant which encouraged the investigator’s confirmation bias that their beliefs were correct. Throughout the investigation, Robinson’s home was searched for the conduct of the investigation with this giving Investigators evidence of Robinson’s controlling behavior as he ‘details his movements and communications in spreadsheets’ and became controlling of ‘Ms. Fade’s prescribed medication’. (The Scotsman, 2019) This led Investigators to further believe their confirmation bias that the couple could have been in a violent and controlling relationship leading to their tunnel vision and focusing on the information that could confirm his involvement in the suspected murder.

Another bias that is frequently used throughout investigations is ‘Availability bias’ this act’s by Confirmation bias as they both have similar traits and meanings. Availability bias shows ‘tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events with greater “availability” in memory, which is influenced by how recent the memories are or how unusual or emotionally charged they maybe’ (Blockley, 2019) which demonstrates how when you are first presented with information under this bias you are more likely to retain information that stands out the most in your memory. Information that has more value tends to be more focused on and reliant upon when solving cases. The ability to store information is a useful tactic to be an effective Investigator as remembering these factors encourages an individual to focus on the result and collecting information that can be seen to be useful. A limitation of Availability Bias is overly focusing on one key detail which could lead to the Investigator misinterpreting the evidence and drawing the wrong conclusion from it.

Availability bias is carried out throughout the case specifically at the start of the Investigation. As the Investigators were given valuable information on the couple’s relationship from the third-party witness and the way Robinson reacted to him being regarded as the prime suspect of the murder. (The Scotsman, 2019) Given this information from the Instigation Stage, led the Investigators to use the Availability Effect to focus on the initial behavior of Robinson and from witness statements. With this linking back to confirmation bias, they formed a barrier on the evidence against him and became fixated with trying to find the evidence against Robinson.

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