Risk Assessment The Science Of Essay

Length: 8 pages Sources: 11 Subject: Psychology Type: Essay Paper: #85613927 Related Topics: Assessment Methods, Expert Witness, Risk, Forensic Science
Excerpt from Essay :

Psychology differs from other sciences, such as physics or chemistry, where test conditions and parameters are easier to control. In psychology, there are factors that are easily controlled, but there are also circumstances that are beyond the control of the researcher. For instance, the researcher cannot control a history of abuse, or social teaching that occurred in the subject's childhood. All of these factors could affect the outcome of the test, but are not controllable from the researcher's standpoint.

The presence of confounding variables makes it difficult to attribute the study findings to the hypothesis beyond the shadow of a doubt. Confounding variables, such as we have discussed, make it difficult to isolate the independent and dependent variable. This is another key criterion of a valid empirical study. In order to demonstrate causality, the researcher must be able to isolate the independent and dependent variable with some certainty. Without this element, one cannot use the results for predictive purposes. This is the most condemning evidence that risk assessment regarding the dangerousness of a person is not valid from a scientific point-of-view.

Every one of us is different, with different motivations, coping mechanisms, personalities, upbringings, social norms, and expectations. The individuality of every person makes it almost impossible to claim that the independent and dependent variables can be isolated. We all react differently, as individuals, to the situations that are presented. Not everyone will react in a predictable fashion when presented the exact same set of circumstances. Studies that involve the use of vignettes demonstrates this. One can develop general trends and norms within the population, sometimes with a considerable amount of accuracy, but no study to date has been developed that can predict with 100% certainty what a specific individual outcome will be.

It is simply not possible to predict accurately what an individual will do from one moment to the next. There are simply too many variables that can come into play. We can predict the most likely outcome, but the end result may surprise us. From this standpoint, risk assessment for dangerousness fails from an empirical standpoint. Many studies claiming to be predictive in nature are found to be lacking in one or more of these necessary elements for an empirical study. Let us now see what effect the use of risk assessment can have for individual court cases.

Risk Assessment in the Court Room

Despite the empirical shortcomings of the risk assessment methods examined, these general categories are still used in the courtroom. A prime example of the inadequacy of risk assessment and the use of "expert" witnesses is highlighted in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (1993). In this case, a client had children born with severe birth defects, which he claimed were caused by ingestion of a product made by Dow Pharmaceuticals during her pregnancy. In this case the court ruled that "scientific evidence is admissible only if the principle upon which it is based is " 'sufficiently established to have general acceptance in the field to which it belongs' (Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (1993). This is a question that plagues the field of risk assessment on a daily basis.

In Fry vs. United States (1923), establishes that even when an error is found, such as imprisoning a person for potential violence, in order to be considered litigious a proof of harm must be produced. Simply proving the error is not enough, one must consider the injury caused by the error. In the case of risk assessment, this same principle applies. A certain risk is inherent in both the overestimation or underestimation of the dangerousness of a person....


Courts often face the decision of deciding whether individual rights outweigh public risk.

Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (1999) is one of the most famous risk assessment cases in the annals of law. In this case, a tire on Carmicheal's mini van blew out, causing a wreck in which one passenger was killed and several others severely injured. Carmichael sued for a defective tire. Carmichael lost based on the foundation established during Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals. The court ruled that causality could not be established because there were too many other variables that could have caused the accident, including the reactions of Carmichael himself. The dangerousness of the tire could not be established.

These court cases demonstrate the fallibility of risk assessment and the methods used to determine the dangerousness involved in a certain action. In the field of abnormal psychology, these principles have even greater weight. If the dangerousness of the person is judged too harshly, the person could lose their freedom and rights. It they err in the opposite direction, the public could be placed at risk. This examination of current methods and applications of risk assessment support the hypothesis that the prediction of dangerousness is not a science. It is found to be lacking in key elements of valid empirical research methodology. Therefore, risk assessment should only be used as a part of the picture. The whole of the decision should not rely on risk assessment and prediction alone.


Brown, M. & Pratt, J. 2000. Dangerous Offenders: Punishment and Social Order. New York: New York, Routledge Publishers.

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (92-102), 509 U.S. 579 (1993). [online]

http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-102.ZO.html [Accessed March 25, 2009].

A de Barros DM, de Padua Serafim a. 2008. Association between personality disorder and violent behavior pattern. Forensic Sci Int 2008 Jun 2.

Dunkel, F. & van Zyl Smit, D. 2004. Preventive Detention of Dangerous Offenders Re- examined: A Comment on Two decisions of the German Federal Constitutional Court - Part II/II. German Law Journal. Vol 5, no 6 [online]

http://www.germanlawjournal.com/article.php?id=454 [Accessed March 25, 2009].

Fals-Stewart W, Leonard KE, & Birchler GR. 2005. The occurrence of male-to-female intimate partner violence on days of men's drinking: the moderating effects of antisocial personality disorder. J Consult Clin Psychol 2005 Apr; Vol 73, No 2. pp. 239-48.

Fry v. United States, 421 U.S. 542 (1975). [online]

http://supreme.justia.com/us/421/542 / [Accessed March 25, 2009].

Greenfeld LA, & Henneberg MA. 2001. Victim and offender self-reports of alcohol involvement in crime. Alcohol Res Health 2001; Vol 25, No 1. pp. 20-31.

Kennealy PJ, Hicks BM, & Patrick CJ. 2007. Validity of factors of the psychopathy checklist revised in female prisoners: discriminant relations with antisocial behavior, substance abuse, and personality. Assessment 2007 Dec; Vol. 14, No. 4. pp.:323-40.

Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (97-1709) 526 U.S. 137 (1999)

131 F.3d 1433, reversed. [online] http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/97-1709.ZS.html

[Accessed March 25, 2009].

Martens WH & Palermo GB. 2005. Loneliness and associated violent antisocial behavior: analysis of the case reports of Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen. Int J. Offender Ther Comp Criminol 2005 Jun; Vol.49, No. 3. pp. 298-307.

Nathan R, Rollinson L, Harvey K, & Hill J. 2003. The Liverpool Violence Assessment: an investigator-based measure of serious violence. Crim Behav Ment Health 2003; Vol. 13, No. 2. pp. 106-20.

Sobral J, Luengo a, & G. mez-Fraguela JA, et al. 2007. Personality, gender and violent criminality in prison inmates. Psicothema 2007 May; Vol. 19, No. 2. pp. 269-75.

Walsh Z, & Kosson DS. 2006. Psychopathy and Violent Crime: A Prospective Study of the Influence of Socioeconomic Status and Ethnicity. Law Hum Behav 2006 Nov 23.

Weizmann-Henelius G, Sailas E,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Brown, M. & Pratt, J. 2000. Dangerous Offenders: Punishment and Social Order. New York: New York, Routledge Publishers.

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (92-102), 509 U.S. 579 (1993). [online]

http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/92-102.ZO.html [Accessed March 25, 2009].

A de Barros DM, de Padua Serafim a. 2008. Association between personality disorder and violent behavior pattern. Forensic Sci Int 2008 Jun 2.
http://www.germanlawjournal.com/article.php?id=454 [Accessed March 25, 2009].
http://supreme.justia.com/us/421/542 / [Accessed March 25, 2009].
131 F.3d 1433, reversed. [online] http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/97-1709.ZS.html

Cite this Document:

"Risk Assessment The Science Of" (2009, March 27) Retrieved December 5, 2021, from

"Risk Assessment The Science Of" 27 March 2009. Web.5 December. 2021. <

"Risk Assessment The Science Of", 27 March 2009, Accessed.5 December. 2021,

Related Documents
Risk Assessment Is an Integral Aspect on
Words: 2820 Length: 10 Pages Topic: Business Paper #: 28146450

Risk Assessment is an integral aspect on any business irrespective of industry. Every business has some form of inherent risk embedded within its underlying business operations. This risk, through proper assessment can be minimized and practically prevented under certain conditions. Through proper risk assessments, businesses can abate the influences of danger that ultimately erodes both profitability, and reputation. In addition, risk assessments allow the company to reduce the prevalence of

Risk Assessment Report of the
Words: 2612 Length: 9 Pages Topic: Business - Management Paper #: 83412184

Functional description The Public Health Informatics and Technology Program's IT system was developed by the Office of Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services (OSELS).The CDC division response for its deployment and maintenance is the Division of Informatics Research and Development (DIRD) whose role is to advance the frontiers of public health informatics by means of appropriate research and development. The DIRD division is to collaborate with the other members of the CDC

Risk Assessment for Gfi Group, Inc. Gfi
Words: 2070 Length: 7 Pages Topic: Education - Computers Paper #: 97622454

Risk Assessment for GFI Group, Inc. (GFI) RISK ASSESSMENT Company Network, Interconnection, and Communication Environment When it comes to the company network, GFI Group, Inc. (GFI) operates as a dealer brokerage company, which was discovered in the U.S. It is in network with over the counter (OTC) related securities and derivative products. The company mostly offers market data brokerage services, and analytics software merchandises to commercial and investment banks, insurance corporations, large businesses

Risk Assessment and Analysis
Words: 4889 Length: 15 Pages Topic: Healthcare Paper #: 9423985

Risk Analysis and the Security Survey The following risk analysis and security survey report will be centered on the hospital as an organization. Vulnerabilities can be classified as crime opportunities, opportunities for breaking rules and regulations, opportunities for profiting and also for loss. By definition, vulnerability can be a gap or a weakness inside a security program that might be exploited by opponents to acquire unlawful access. Vulnerabilities include procedural, human,

Risk Management and Activation of
Words: 2940 Length: 10 Pages Topic: Teaching Paper #: 94010613

The other criteria to be used in the selection of the institutions of higher learning are their length of existence and size. Data collection plans Data is to be collected using questionnaires and triangulation is to be used in the process. This means that both qualitative and quantitative techniques of data collection are to be used in order to increase the chances of getting valid results (Jick, 1979). The following sources of

Risk Assessments in a Healthcare Context
Words: 1717 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Healthcare Paper #: 28141650

Risk Management When creating a risk management plan for a government program a number of important (even crucial) steps must be taken. In this paper a review of those steps is presented. Also, interventions which are important for improving healthcare are presented. Hence, this paper should serve as a five page report to the city council. Needs Assessment The simple, straightforward definition of needs assessment is as follows: project leaders and developers must