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Sci Justice. 2017 Jul;57(4):296-306. doi: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.03.006. Epub 2017 Mar 31.

Identification at the crime scene: The sooner, the better? The interpretation of rapid identification information by CSIs at the crime scene.

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Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Forensic Science Department, Weesperzijde 190, 1097 DZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
International Centre for Research in Forensic Psychology, University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, King Henry 1st St, Portsmouth PO1 2DY, UK.
Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Forensic Science Department, Weesperzijde 190, 1097 DZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Police Academy of the Netherlands, Research and Development, P.O. Box 348, 7301 BB Apeldoorn, The Netherlands; VU University Amsterdam, Criminology Department, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


New technologies will allow Crime Scene Investigators (CSIs) in the near future to analyse traces at the crime scene and receive identification information while still conducting the investigation. These developments could have considerable effects on the way an investigation is conducted. CSIs may start reasoning based on possible database-matches which could influence scenario formation (i.e. the construction of narratives that explain the observed traces) during very early phases of the investigation. The goal of this study is to gain more insight into the influence of the rapid identification information on the reconstruction of the crime and the evaluation of traces by addressing two questions, namely 1) is scenario formation influenced from the moment that ID information is provided and 2) do database matches influence the evaluation of traces and the reconstruction of the crime. We asked 48 CSIs from England to investigate a potential murder crime scene on a computer. Our findings show that the interpretation of the crime scene by CSIs is affected by the moment identification information is provided. This information has a higher influence on scenario formation when provided after an initial scenario has been formed. Also, CSIs seem to attach great value to traces that produce matches with databases and hence yield a name of a known person. Similar traces that did not provide matches were considered less important. We question whether this kind of selective attention is desirable as it may cause ignorance of other relevant information at the crime scene.


Cognitive bias; Crime scene investigation; Database-match; Decision making; Rapid identification; Scenario construction

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