Folk Psychology Wins the DAY! Daubert and the Challenge of False Confessions


Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., provides rules that are supposed to govern the admissibility of expert scientific testimony in federal court cases. It was designed to be applied across all scientific disciplines, regardless of legal context. However, there exists a strong tension between the Daubert standards and the practice of psychology and psychiatry. Moreover, judges seem to be biased against scientific testimony based on behavioral research, especially that regarding the likelihood of the risk factors and reasons underlying false confessions. I argue that the tenets of folk psychology are alive and well in the judicial system, to its detriment. The very functioning of our legal system depends on the veracity of confessions. That our folk ability to detect deception is demonstrably non-existent suggests that the legal process itself is fundamentally flawed. Daubert is being used to mask an incorrect and inappropriate perspective on human behavior.