Behavioral Sciences & the Law

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Volume 34 Issue 1 (January/February 2016), Pages 1-245

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire: the Effect of Truncated Testimony on Juror Decision‐making (pages 200-217)

In countries that allow child complainants of abuse to present their direct evidence via pre‐recorded videotape, the recording is sometimes truncated for relevance or admissibility purposes before it is presented to the jury. In two experiments, we investigated how this practice affects mock jurors' judgments of child credibility and defendant culpability when truncation omitted the child's less plausible allegations. Mock jurors read a transcript of a 6‐year‐old girl making an abuse allegation against the janitor at her school. Some jurors read this allegation only (truncated version), while others also read either one or two additional – but less plausible – allegations by the same child. Contrary to what we predicted, the presence of these additional allegations did not decrease jurors' belief in the core allegation, nor did it influence their judgments about the child complainant's honesty or cognitive competence. In fact, under at least one condition, reading additional, less plausible allegations made jurors more likely to pronounce the defendant guilty of the core allegation – even when jurors did not believe the additional allegations. This finding stands in stark contrast to prior research on jurors' evaluation of adults' testimony that includes implausible details. Future research in this area will help to elucidate the conditions under which the presentation of truncated testimony may or may not influence juror decision‐making. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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