A new article was released this month from the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry regarding the value of forensic neuropsychology in the courts, authored by Elizabeth Leonard, a neuropsychologist practicing in Arizona. I have pasted the abstract below. Dr. Leonard has some useful articles on her practice website regarding how neuropsychology may assist the trier of fact, as well as on when attorneys should use a neuropsychologist. See the article on “Using Neuropsychological Experts,” available at: http://www.neurocognitiveassociates.com/resources/articles. I find it beneficial to keep up with the publications of experts around the country, and Dr. Leonard is one such expert.
Forensic neuropsychology and expert witness testimony: An overview of forensic practice
Neuropsychologists are frequently asked to serve as expert witnesses in an increasing number of legal contexts for civil and criminal proceedings. The skills required to practice forensic neuropsychology expand upon the knowledge, skills, and abilities developed by clinical neuropsychologists. Forensic neuropsychologists acquire expertise in understanding the roles and various functions of the legal system, as well as their role in addressing psycholegal questions to assist fact finders in making legal decisions. The required skills and the unique circumstances for clinical neuropsychologists pursing forensic work are reviewed.
Similarly, another article was recently released regarding commonly accepted practices among neuropsychologists in the area of performance validity testing and symptom validity testing. Studies such as these are beneficial in depicting outlying practices. It is great to see that validity testing is becoming normative practice among forensic professionals. I found myself marking up this article. While probably most useful for the practicing neuropsychologist rather than the attorney, some of the relevant points may be cited in the courtroom.
Neuropsychologists’ Validity Testing Beliefs and Practices: A Survey of North American Professionals
OBJECTIVE: The current study investigated changes in neuropsychologists’ validity testing beliefs and practices since publication of the last North American survey targeting these issues in 2007 and explored emerging issues in validity testing that had not been previously addressed in the professional survey literature.
METHODS: Licensed North American neuropsychologists (n = 316), who primarily evaluate adults, were surveyed in regard to the following topics: (1) comparison of objective validity testing, qualitative data, and clinical judgment; (2) approaches to validity test administration; (3) formal communication in cases of suspected malingering; (4) reporting of validity test results; (5) suspected causes of invalidity; (6) integration of stand-alone, embedded, and symptom-report validity measures; (7) multiple performance validity test interpretation; (8) research practices; and (9) popularity of specific validity instruments.
RESULTS: Overall, findings from the current survey indicated that all but a small minority of respondents routinely utilize validity testing in their examinations. Furthermore, nearly all neuropsychologists surveyed believed formal validity testing to be mandatory in forensic evaluations and at least desirable in clinical evaluations. While results indicated general agreement among neuropsychologists across many aspects of validity testing, responses regarding some facets of validity test implementation, interpretation, and reporting were more variable. Validity testing utilization generally did not differ according to level of forensic involvement but did vary in respect to respondent literature consumption.
CONCLUSIONS: Study findings differ significantly from past professional surveys and indicate an increased utilization of validity testing, suggesting a pronounced paradigm shift in neuropsychology validity testing beliefs and practices.