Using Graphs to Improve Violence Risk Communication [2016]

We examined the use of graphs as an aid to communicating statistical risk among forensic clinicians. We first tested four graphs previously used or recommended for forensic risk assessment among 442 undergraduate students who made security recommendations about two offenders whose risk differed by one actuarial category of risk for violent recidivism (Study 1). Effective decision making was defined as actuarially higher risk offenders being assigned to greater security than lower risk offenders. The graph resulting in the largest distinction among less numerate students was a probability bar graph. We then tested this graph among 54 forensic clinicians (Study 2). The graph had no overall effect. Among more experienced staff, however, decisions were insensitive to actuarial risk in the absence of the graph and in the desirable direction with the addition of the graph. Further research into the benefit of graphs in violence risk communication appears viable.

N. Zoe Hilton, Elke Ham, Kevin L. Nunes, Nicole C. Rodrigues, Cairina Frank, Michael C. Seto

Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol 44, Issue 5, 2017