The decisionalization of individualization

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Throughout forensic science and adjacent branches, academic researchers and practitioners continue to diverge in their perception and understanding of the notion of 'individualization', that is the claim to reduce a pool of potential donors of a forensic trace to a single source. In particular, recent shifts to refer to the practice of individualization as a decision have been revealed as being a mere change of label [1], leaving fundamental changes in thought and understanding still pending. What is more, professional associations and practitioners shy away from embracing the notion of decision in terms of the formal theory of decision in which individualization may be framed, mainly because of difficulties to deal with the measurement of desirability or undesirability of the consequences of decisions (e.g., using utility functions). Building on existing research in the area, this paper presents and discusses fundamental concepts of utilities and losses with particular reference to their application to forensic individualization. The paper emphasizes that a proper appreciation of decision tools not only reduces the number of individual assignments that the application of decision theory requires, but also shows how such assignments can be meaningfully related to constituting features of the real-world decision problem to which the theory is applied. It is argued that the decisonalization of individualization requires such fundamental insight to initiate changes in the fields' underlying understandings, not merely in their label.




Biedermann, A., Bozza, S., & Taroni, F. (2016). The decisionalization of individualization. Forensic Science International, 266, 29–38.

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