Why and How Errors and Bias Occur Even in ‘Hard Sciences’ Like Analytical Chemistry, and How to Fix It

Experts are heavily relied upon as their judgment and decision making is regarded as objective and impartial. In this talk I will present research and evidence that many different types of biases affect experts, even in ‘scientifically objective’ domains. For example, forensic conclusions can be highly impacted and distorted by irrelevant contextual information, by reference materials, or even by the context in which information is presented or obtained. Confirmation bias and other cognitive biases that I will discuss are implicit and impact hard working, dedicated and competent experts, and thus are widespread but hard to detect. I will articulate the psychological mechanisms by which experts can make biased and erroneous decisions. Then I will show how this research can assist in identifying such weaknesses and in providing practical ways to mitigate them, see, e.g., an article published in Analytical Chemistry how biases impact decisions
Dr. Itiel Dror (Ph.D. Harvard) is a cognitive neuroscientist who is interested in the cognitive architecture that underpins expert decision making. Dror’s research, published in over 150 research articles, cited over 11,000 times (source: Google Scholar), demonstrates human vulnerabilities in expert judgments and decision making. He has worked in a variety of domains, from policing and aviation, to medical experts and bankers, showing that human factors impact even hard working, dedicated and competent experts. In the forensic science domain, he has focused attention and highlighted how bias can impact fingerprinting, DNA, analytical chemistry, and forensic pathology decisions. Dr. Dror has worked with and trained many agencies in various countries on how to minimize errors and enhance expert decision making. More information here.