Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





Psychology, Clinical.




A series of written, hypothetical case vignettes was created to investigate the effect of bias in decisions regarding a criminal defendants's fitness to stand trial. The design of this study involved a manipulation of variables corresponding to the legal standard of fitness to stand trial: the presence of a mental disorder which compromises the defendant's ability to understand the nature and importance of the proceedings and/or communicate with defence counsel. Within this framework, three legally irrelevant variables were also manipulated. These variables involved the nature of the defendant's current crime, legal history, and previous psychiatric hospitalizations. Of the 1064 psychiatrists in the Province of Ontario who were solicited to participate in this mail-out study, 318 individuals returned a completed response form. The results indicate that psychiatrists rely on the legal criteria in rendering their fitness decisions. However, they appear to accord different levels of importance to the individual functional criteria of fitness and, at least under certain conditions, are influenced by biasing information in arriving at their opinion of fitness. The implications of these finding vis a vis the lives of mentally disordered criminal defendants and regarding the decision-making and evaluation processes are discussed. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 54-05, Section: B, page: 2768. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1992.