How to find good detectives

Will testing prospective Detectives in deductive and inductive reasoning find the best detectives? 'Deductive reasoning' goes something like this: in the case of a+b=c, if a and b are known c must be the result.

And inductive reasoning goes something like this: if b, d, f, h, j, k, is known, maybe every other letter in the alphabet is also involved. Norwegian police already use these tests in recruitment, but what do they really tell us, apart from the candidates’ test-taking abilities and is there a better alternative?

Two researchers in Gothenburg University have taken it upon themselves to find out (Fashing and Ask, March 2018). They devised a simulated real-life test of detective abilities but giving police students a scenario and gauging their responses to the scenario against a panel of experienced successful detective. Their success at the task was compared to their success at the reasoning tests.

They had used a similar method before but then compared English and Norwegian experienced and novice police officers, finding the English experienced police officers did better than the rest, suggesting there may be something wrong with the Norwegian system (Fashing and Ask, February 2016). Therefore, his new study looked at Norwegian novices to see if the tests they use to asses police candidates did ‘as it says on the tin’.

They did not find the reasoning tests related to the candidates’ performances in the tests. However, candidates who were batter able to generate a hypothesis about the case were more likely to get to the point of arrest in the scenario. It looks like police forces need to think again about how to find the best detectives. Perhaps a way of measuring the candidates' ability to generate a case hypothesis can be found. It sounds like Fashing and Ask are on the case!

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