Mastering Expert Testimony: A Courtroom Handbook for Mental Health Professionals

By William T. Tsushima; Robert M. Anderson Jr. | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER 4
PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTING

"True or false: Psychological tests are grossly overrated"

Psychologists who are called on to testify in court often utilize psychological tests to buttress their diagnosis and clinical opinions. Psychological test results can be powerfully persuasive instruments in the courtroom because of society's long-standing affection and respect for these measurement tools. Psychological tests have, throughout this century, played a vital role in education, industrial personnel practice, mental health fields, and clinical medicine and, thus, there has been virtually no resistance to their introduction into judicial proceedings ( Dahlstrom, 1993; Matarazzo, 1990).

The direct examination will elicit, at the bare minimum, the names of the psychological tests administered, the test findings, and the conclusions reached as a result of the tests. A more detailed inquiry may ask for the purpose of each test, what the test measures, the scores from each test, and the significance of each of the test scores. Because of the sheer quantity and complexity of psychological test scores, an effective testimony would favor the less detailed inquiry so that the typical judge or juror can have a clear understanding of the test results rather than be befuddled by the morass of technical data.

The following is a sample direct examination of a psychologist who performed psychological testing on an 11-year-old boy who, one year previous, had a head injury and was experiencing some learning difficulties in school:

Q. After your interview of Daniel, what psychological testing was performed?

A. The test battery included the Wechsler Intelligence for Children, Third Revision, or WISC-III, the Wide Range Achievement Test-3 [WRAT-31],

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