Sidetracked by emotion: Observers’ ability to discriminate genuine and fabricated sexual assault allegations
Article first published online: 11 MAY 2011
©2011 The British Psychological Society
Legal and Criminological Psychology
Volume 17, Issue 2, pages 322–335, September 2012
How to Cite
Peace, K. A., Porter, S. and Almon, D. F. (2012), Sidetracked by emotion: Observers’ ability to discriminate genuine and fabricated sexual assault allegations. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 17: 322–335. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8333.2011.02013.x
- Issue published online: 23 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 11 MAY 2011
- Received 20 December 2010; revised version received 30 March 2011
Purpose. Assessing the credibility of reports of sexual victimization – often in the absence of corroboration – presents a significant challenge for legal decision makers. This study examined the accuracy of observers in discriminating genuine and fabricated sexual assault allegations. Further, we examined whether individual differences and cue utilization strategies influenced deception detection accuracy.
Methods. Observers (N= 119) evaluated eight (four truthful and four deceptive) written allegations of sexual assault (counterbalanced), and completed a Credibility Assessment Questionnaire (CAQ) and individual differences measures.
Results. Results indicated that overall accuracy was below chance (M= 45.3%), and a truth bias was evidenced. Examining the Big Five personality traits, we found that openness to experience and neuroticism were positively associated with accuracy, whereas extraversion was negatively related to accuracy. Further, judgement confidence was negatively associated with accuracy.
Conclusions. The present study offers insights into observers’ perceptions of credibility regarding real-life sexual assault allegations. Implications for legal decision making are discussed.