This research was supported by a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Fi 294/10-1).
The Backbone of Closing Speeches: The Impact of Prosecution Versus Defense Language on Judicial Attributions1
Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 28, Issue 13, pages 1140–1172, July 1998
How to Cite
Schmid, J. and Fiedler, K. (1998), The Backbone of Closing Speeches: The Impact of Prosecution Versus Defense Language on Judicial Attributions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28: 1140–1172. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1998.tb01672.x
- Issue published online: 31 JUL 2006
- Article first published online: 31 JUL 2006
Subtle attribution cues embedded in language were investigated in a simulated courtroom setting. Lawyers in training as well as lay attorneys gave closing speeches for the defense and for the prosecution. In a first study, distinct linguistic strategies were identified. Prosecutors attributed internal causality to defendants, whereas defense attorneys supported negative intentional attributions to the victim. In a second study, lay persons judged the closing speeches and decided on verdict and punishment. Severity of punishment depended on speaker's role (defense or prosecution), severity of crime, and 2 linguistic strategies, indicating intentionality of negative behavior and dispositionality of negative behavior. It is concluded that subtle language strategies do have a noticeable effect on the attribution of blame and guilt in a legal setting.