Evaluating and improving the opposing expert safeguard against junk science

Lora Mary Levett, Florida International University


In Daubert, the Supreme Court opined that opposing expert testimony is an effective safeguard against junk science in the courtroom. Although jurors maybe unable to identify flaws in scientific research without some assistance, social psychological research suggests that people can be trained to make more sophisticated judgments about scientific quality. Further, previous research demonstrated that an opposing expert who addresses the methodology of proffered expert testimony may not enable jurors to evaluate scientific validity. In three studies, I tested why this safeguard was ineffective using a variety of stimulus materials. In the first study, I examined the mediating effect of attitudes on juror decisions within the context of a sexual harassment trial. In the second study, I examined the moderating effect of the presentation of expert credentials on participant decisions regarding child suggestibility literature. In the third study, I tested several improvements to the safeguard using improvements designed to correct for the effects of attitudes and credential presentation on juror decisions within the context of a first-degree murder trial. I found that while opposing expert testimony may have potential as a safeguard, in its current form it is ineffective. That is, a traditional opposing expert caused jurors to be skeptical of all expert testimony rather than sensitizing them to the validity of the research presented at trial. Further, while the improvements tested in this study may have potential to assist jurors in making scientifically sound decisions, more research is needed to further test and refine these improvements.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Psychology|Experiments|Law

Recommended Citation

Levett, Lora Mary, "Evaluating and improving the opposing expert safeguard against junk science" (2005). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3190955.