Expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases: The effects of evidence, coherence and credentials on juror decision making



Psychological experts have been used increasingly to testify in child sexual abuse cases, yet little research has investigated what specific factors make experts effective. This study examined the potential effects that credentials, evidence strength and coherence may have on juror decision making. Sixty-four mock jurors read cases of child sexual abuse, followed by experts' testimony and rated guilt of the defendant, effectiveness of the expert testimony and credibility of the victim. Evidence strength and coherence of the testimony affected all dependent variables, and the interaction was significant. Guilt ratings of the defendant were lower and the victim was rated as less credible when both evidence strength and coherence were low. The credentials of the expert, however, had negligible impact. These findings indicate that experts can be effective and impact jurors when testimony is either high in coherence or high in evidence. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.