Witness

A blog about forensic psychology

"The best predictor of future behavior is … past behavior"

Accompanied by incendiary metaphors about ticking time bombs and hand grenades, the mantra is creeping into forensic psychology reports and court testimony. But is it really true? Read More

"The best predictor of future behavior is … past behavior"?

"The past-as-prelude mantra fits with today's dominant, dark view of offenders as a bundle of perpetual risk factors, ticking time bombs just waiting to explode."

Dear Dr Franklin, is it because of our need for certainty, the need to feel that we can prevent danger?

I think your short interval

I think your short interval example says it all. If someone had committed a bad act 5 years ago vs 5 months ago its easier to assume that they might do it again but only after applying situational circumstances and the persons present character.

It sort of is except when it isn't...

Frankly, past occurrences do show strong correlation with future occurences, and, when trying to predict something into the future, using past occurences is way better than using nothing at all to do so, however, it's certainly a kind of fallacy if it's used in a kind of "deterministic" way as there's no way one can predict the future.

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Karen Franklin, Ph.D., is a forensic psychologist in Northern California.

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