The Impact of Age, Speech Style, and Question Form on Perceptions of Witness Credibility and Trial Outcome1


  • 1

    The research presented in this paper represents the first author's master's thesis. The research was presented at the American Psychology-Law Society Biennial Conference (March 1998) in Redondo Beach, California. The authors thank Samuel L. Becker for critiquing the manuscript.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Christine L. Ruva, Department of Psychology, University of South Florida, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, USS 805E, Sarasota, FL 34243. E-mail: ruva@luna.cas.usf.ed.


The experiment examined the effects that witness age (6, 10, or 22 year old), witness speech style (powerful or powerless), and prosecuting attorney's questioning style (open-or closed-ended) have on perceived witness credibility and trial outcome. Potential jurors (N=276) read trial transcripts involving a murder. A significant age by speech style interaction revealed that speaking in a powerless manner was significantly more harmful to the adult witness' credibility than it was to the child witness' credibility. A Significant Age × Question Form interaction revealed that question form only had a significant effect on the 6-year-old's credibility. Finally, verdicts, guilt ratings, and the length of the sentence were significantly correlated with ratings of the witness' credibility.