The Role of Eyewitness Confidence in Juror Perceptions of Credibility1

Authors


  • 1

    This article is based on a doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of Pittsburgh by the first author under the supervision of the second author. We would like to thank the other members of the dissertation committee—Irene Hanson Frieze, John Levine, Merle Moskowitz, and Welsh White—for their helpful advice and suggestions. We would also like to express our appreciation to Richard Moreland, Nancy Nighswonger, Mark Pavelchak, Paul Sweeney, and Stephanie Tortu for their assistance in making the videotapes used in this research; Greg Gezovich, Karen Webster, and Lisa Weinberg for their help in data collection; and Courtney Cox for assistance in data coding.

Abstract

A review of the theory and research concerning factors affecting persuasion suggested the hypothesis that eyewitness confidence is an important factor in jurors' perceptions of the witness' credibility. Three experiments were conducted using mock jurors to test this hypothesis. Experiment I found that perceptions of credibility varied as a function of witness confidence. Experiment 2 found that perceptions of the accuracy of the witness' description and identification of the suspect varied as a function of her expertise, whereas perceptions of the accuracy of her account of the crime varied as a function of her confidence. Perceived expertise also varied as a function of witness confidence. Because Experiments 1 and 2 used college students as subjects, Experiment 3 was conducted to replicate these findings in an older subject sample. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

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