Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice

Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice

This webinar originally occurred on June 21, 2022
Duration: 1 hour


Human factors may encompass any way in which people’s psychological or physiological attributes affect a system or process. Physiological considerations include things like the ergonomics of laboratory workstations or the limitations of visual acuity. Psychological considerations include things like how people learn new procedures or are influenced by stress. Cognitive psychologists study how the human mind operates including its capacities like attention, memory, language processing, perception, and reasoning, and how understanding these capacities can be harnessed to help people and organizations build robust systems based on the mind’s strengths and limitations.

The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence undertook the creation of a Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook with the aim of introducing readers to potentially unfamiliar aspects of human factors. A collection of five articles were written, each covering a specific field of knowledge within cognitive psychology literature and how it may apply to and strengthen forensic science. Each article was written by a team consisting of a cognitive psychologist who had expertise in the area under review, assisted by several forensic scientists who provided operational perspective.

The sourcebook was designed to serve a wide range of forensic science stakeholders in three primary ways:

  • Describe the state of knowledge of human factors as applied to forensic practice.
  • Guide forensic laboratories to take into account how human factors considerations can improve the practice of forensic science.
  • Inform researchers and funders about research gaps that could be addressed in the application of cognitive psychology to forensic practice.

The five article titles that comprise the Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook are:

  • The need for research-based tools for personnel selection and assessment in the forensic sciences
  • The benefits of errors during training
  • Challenges to reasoning in forensic science decisions
  • Stressors in forensic organizations: Risks and solutions
  • Describing communication during a forensic investigation using the Pebbles on a Scale metaphor

In this webinar, three of the authors of the sourcebook will provide an overview of the project, then discuss some of the topics that were covered in its articles.

Detailed Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will become aware of the Human Factors in Forensic Science Practice Sourcebook, where to find it, and what it contains.
  2. Attendees will recognize that the field of human factors encompasses more than just addressing bias.
  3. Attendees will appreciate how knowledge of human factors can be used to improve forensic science practice.


  • Barbara A. Spellman, J.D., Ph.D. | Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology, University of Virginia
  • Heidi Eldridge, Ph.D. | Research Forensic Scientist, RTI International  
  • Tom Busey, Ph.D. | Professor of Cognitive Science, Indiana University 

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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