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Tess Neal Collection


Tess Neal is an Assistant Professor of Psychology in the ASU New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and is a founding faculty member of the Program on Law and Behavioral Science. Dr. Neal has published one edited book and more than two dozen peer-reviewed publications in such journals as PLOS ONE; Psychology, Public Policy, and Law; and Criminal Justice and Behavior.

Neal is the recipient of the 2016 Saleem Shah Award for Early Career Excellence in Psychology and Law, co-awarded by the American Psychology-Law Society and the American Academy of Forensic Psychology. She was named a 2016 "Rising Star" by the Association for Psychological Science, a designation that recognizes outstanding psychological scientists in the earliest stages of their research career post-PhD "whose innovative work has already advanced the field and signals great potential for their continued contributions." She directs the ASU Clinical and Legal Judgment Lab.


This survey of 206 forensic psychologists tested the “filtering” effects of preexisting expert attitudes in adversarial proceedings. Results confirmed the hypothesis that evaluator attitudes toward capital punishment influence willingness to accept capital case referrals from particular adversarial parties. Stronger death penalty opposition was associated with higher willingness to conduct evaluations for the defense and higher likelihood of rejecting referrals from all sources Conversely, stronger support was associated with higher willingness to be involved in capital cases generally, regardless of referral source. The findings raise the specter of skewed evaluator involvement in capital evaluations, where evaluators willing to do capital casework ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2016-04-28

We conducted an international survey in which forensic examiners who were members of professional associations described their two most recent forensic evaluations (N=434 experts, 868 cases), focusing on the use of structured assessment tools to aid expert judgment. This study describes: (a) the relative frequency of various forensic referrals, (b) what tools are used globally, (c) frequency and type of structured tools used, and (d) practitioners’ rationales for using/not using tools. We provide general descriptive information for various referrals. We found most evaluations used tools (74.2%) and used several (on average 4). We noted the extreme variety in tools used ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S., Grisso, Thomas
Created Date
2014-09-25

Prisoners sentenced to death must be competent for execution before they can actually be executed (Ford v. Wainwright, 1986). The decision for many mental health professionals whether to conduct competence for execution evaluations may be fraught with complex ethical issues. Mental health professionals who do not personally support capital punishment may have a particularly difficult decision to make in this regard but should seriously consider the consequences of their decisions. This article applies Bush, Connell, and Denney’s (2006) eight-step ethical decision-making model to the ethicality of deciding to or abstaining from conducting competence for execution evaluations. This article does not ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2010

This project began as an attempt to develop systematic, measurable indicators of bias in written forensic mental health evaluations focused on the issue of insanity. Although forensic clinicians observed in this study did vary systematically in their report-writing behaviors on several of the indicators of interest, the data are most useful in demonstrating how and why bias is hard to ferret out. Naturalistic data was used in this project (i.e., 122 real forensic insanity reports), which in some ways is a strength. However, given the nature of bias and the problem of inferring whether a particular judgment is biased, naturalistic ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2018-04-19

A qualitative study with 20 board-certified forensic psychologists was followed up by a mail survey of 351 forensic psychologists in this mixed-methods investigation of examiner bias awareness and strategies used to debias forensic judgments. Rich qualitative data emerged about awareness of bias, specific biasing situations that recur in forensic evaluations, and potential debiasing strategies. The continuum of bias awareness in forensic evaluators mapped cogently onto the “stages of change” model. Evaluators perceived themselves as less vulnerable to bias than their colleagues, consistent with the phenomenon called the “bias blind spot.” Recurring situations that posed challenges for forensic clinicians included disliking ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S., Brodsky, Stanley L.
Created Date
2016-02

Since its debut over a century ago, forensic psychology has matured into a formally recognized specialty area of psychology with its own set of ethical guidelines; however, a consensual definition of forensic psychology remains elusive. After describing the field’s historical and current struggles to define itself, two ethical issues are discussed that are especially applicable to psychology in legal contexts. The first is the critical differences between serving in therapeutic versus forensic roles and the associated ethical obligation to refrain from serving in both roles in the same case. Despite the terminology used in the literature, treatment in forensic contexts ...

Contributors
Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2017

This study examined the scope and components of mitigation assessments in a first effort to develop some guidelines for conducting mitigation evaluations. Using the Mitigation Evaluations Survey (MES) we developed for this research, we surveyed 266 psychologists about the characteristics and content of mitigation evaluations. A high percentage of participants endorsed each of the 14 content areas presented in the MES as essential or recommended for inclusion in mitigation evaluations. However, when the participants were given a hypothetical open-ended referral question regarding a mitigation evaluation, fewer participants included all 14 content areas in their responses. This discrepancy as well as ...

Contributors
Barnett, Michelle E., Brodsky, Stanley L., Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2011

The ethics of forensic professionalism is often couched in terms of competing individual and societal values. Indeed, the welfare of individuals is often secondary to the requirements of society, especially given the public nature of courts of law, forensic hospitals, jails, and prisons. We explore the weaknesses of this dichotomous approach to forensic ethics, offering an analysis of Psychology's historical narrative especially relevant to the national security and correctional settings. We contend that a richer, more robust ethical analysis is available if practitioners consider the multiple perspectives in the forensic encounter, and acknowledge the multiple influences of personal, professional, and ...

Contributors
Candilis, Philip J., Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2013-12-28

The essential tasks for an expert witness are to be prepared, to be effective and credible on the stand, and to manage well the demands of cross-examinations. Most novice experts are excessively anxious about their testimony. Effective experts are well-oriented to the legal and scientific context of court testimony. This chapter reviews research-backed tips for preparing for expert testimony.

Contributors
Brodsky, Stanley L., Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2013

Aside from an article by Gutheil, Bursztajn, Hilliard, and Brodsky (2004), scant literature exists regarding why forensic mental health professionals refuse or withdraw from cases. The current study collected descriptive information about the reasons mental health experts decline or withdraw from forensic assessments, both early and late in the legal process. In response to an online survey, 29 practicing forensic psychologists and psychiatrists presented examples of case withdrawal from their professional experiences. Their major reasons included ethical issues or conflicts, payment difficulties, and interpersonal or procedural problems with retaining counsel or evaluees. The results indicate that there are compelling personal ...

Contributors
Brodsky, Stanley L., Wilson, Jennifer Kelly, Neal, Tess M.S.
Created Date
2013