Abstract: Due to their medicolegal repercussions, forensic anthropology conclusions must be reliable, consistent, and minimally compromised by bias. Yet, a synthetic analysis of the reliability and biasability of the discipline's methods has not yet been conducted. To do so, this study utilized Dror's (2016) hierarchy of expert performance (HEP), an eight-level model aimed at examining intra- and inter-expert reliability and biasability (the potential for cognitive bias) within the literature of forensic science disciplines. A systematic review of the forensic anthropology literature was conducted (1972-present), including papers published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology, Forensic Science International, and the Journal of Forensic Sciences and Anthropology Section abstracts published in the Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the AAFS which matched keywords such as "forensic anthropology," "bias," "reliability," "cognition," "cognitive," or "error." The resulting forensic anthropology HEP showcases areas that have ample research and areas where more research can be conducted. Specifically, statistically significant increases in reliability (p < 0.001) and biasability (p < 0.001) publications were found since 2009 (publication of the NAS report). Extensive research examined the reliability of forensic anthropological observations and conclusions (n = 744 publications). However, minimal research investigated the biasability of forensic anthropological observations and conclusions (n = 20 publications). Notably, while several studies demonstrated the biasing effect of extraneous information on anthropological morphological assessments, there was no research into these effects on anthropological metric assessments. The findings revealed by the forensic anthropology HEP can help to guide future research, ultimately informing the development and refinement of best-practice standards for the discipline.
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