How psychiatrists and judges assess the dangerousness of persons with mental illness: An 'expertise bias'

Richard L. Wiener, Tracey L. Richmond, Hope M. Seib, Shannon M. Rauch, Amy A. Hackney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


When assessing dangerousness of mentally ill persons with the objective of making a decision on civil commitment, medical and legal experts use information typically belonging to their professional frame of reference. This is investigated in two studies of the commitment decision. It is hypothesized that an 'expertise bias' may explain differences between the medical and the legal expert in defining the dangerousness concept (study 1), and in assessing the seriousness of the danger (study 2). Judges define dangerousness more often as harming others, whereas psychiatrists more often include harm to self in the definition. In assessing the seriousness of the danger, experts tend to be more tolerant with regard to false negatives, as the type of behavior is more familiar to them. The theoretical and practical implications of the results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-29
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 27 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law

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