Using Item Response Theory to Better Understand Forensic Fingerprint Examination

Amanda Luby, PhD candidate, Carnegie Mellon University.

Monday, November 12, 2018 - 3:30pm

Fingerprint examination is perhaps the most well-known of the forensic science methods, yet remains one of the most subjective. Even as automated systems become more prolific and accurate, final comparison decisions are left to individual forensic examiners. Given the same comparison task, different fingerprint examiners may come to different conclusions and/or use different decision criteria. There has been an influx of studies attempting to estimate overall error rates as well as understand decision-making processes in forensic analyses. Methods from educational testing, particularly item response theory (IRT), can provide valuable insight into these studies by accounting for both individual differences among examiners as well as comparison tasks of varying difficulty. 

There are, however, fundamental differences between forensic science applications and traditional IRT settings. In this talk, I will discuss these differences and demonstrate the use of IRTrees, a tree-based IRT framework, to account for these differences. I will also discuss the utility of such an approach in the forensic science domain. 

Seminars generally take place in 116 Old Chemistry Building on Fridays from 3:30 - 4:30 pm. For additional information contact: or phone 919-684-8029. Sorry, but we do not have reprints available. Please feel free to contact the authors by email for follow-up information, articles, etc. Reception following seminar in 203B Old Chemistry.

Old Chemistry 116

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