Masters Thesis

Person- or situation-based expert witness testimony: Do jurors have a preference?

Research has shown that expert witness testimony is effective at informing jurors on the link between situational and dispositional risk factors and false confessions. It is suggested by some researchers that jurors better respond to expert testimony containing dispositional risk factors (person-based expert testimony) over testimony containing situational risk factors (situation-based expert testimony). This is suggested among researchers, yet there is no empirical research to support this view. The present study examined mock-jurors’ verdict decisions based on the type of expert testimony they received. After reading a disputed confession case, participants saw one of the following types of expert testimony: situation-based, person-based, or a combination of the two. Participants provided verdict decisions and their perceptions of various aspects of confession evidence and the expert testimony. Expert witness testimony was effective at reducing the amount of guilty verdicts when compared to the control group. However, there were no significant differences between the types of testimony received. These findings suggest that having an expert witness testify (regardless of type) is effective at informing jurors about the reasons as to why someone might falsely confess.

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