We examined how judges evaluate four characteristics when choosing an expert witness for a forensic psychological or psychiatric case. We asked 87 judges to read short descriptions of legal cases and asked them to choose the best expert witness from a pool of experts who differed based on the following four criteria: the expert could be a psychologist or a psychiatrist, have or not have work experience, have or not have a leadership role, and have or not have publications in the field. The results showed that the judges considered the expert's work experience as a necessary criterion without which the witness cannot be chosen. Also, they considered having publications in the field as important and covering leadership roles as useless, if not harmful. Further, the judges demonstrated to be accurate in choosing a psychologist or a psychiatrist according to the presented legal case. Analyzing separately the impact of the judges' age and gender on their choosing style, we observed a trend for male judges to value leadership roles and no significant impact of age on the responses given. The study highlights how the selection of expert witnesses is strongly driven by the expert's work experience which, however, may not always be a reliable cue of actual expertise both in the psychological and psychiatric fields.
- expert witness selection
- expert's work experience
- judges' reasoning style
- psychological and psychiatric testimony