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“You don't expect me to believe that, do you?” Expectations influence recall and belief of alibi information


  • Author Note
  • Elizabeth A. Olson, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
  • This research is based on the author's doctoral dissertation. I would like to thank Simon Messmer, the alibi provider in the video; Kevin Jolly, Christie Graeve, Laura Valenziano, Nathan Magel, and Candace Jones, for data collection; Tara Fisher for recall paragraph coding; and Gary Wells for dissertation advising. I would also like to extend deep appreciation to Amy Bradfield Douglass for her helpful comments on earlier drafts.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth A. Olson, Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI 53190, USA. E-mail:


Presumptions of guilt could bias criminal investigators' interviews of suspects, reducing recall of exculpatory alibi information, and the label “alibi” could be enough to create a presumption of guilt. Participants (n = 285) viewed a videotaped narrative account; some participants knew prior to viewing that the account was an alibi whereas others discovered this after viewing. Also, some participants were given an expectation that the alibi provider was guilty or innocent. Results indicated participants with a presumption of guilt before viewing the alibi recalled less alibi-relevant information, found the alibi less believable, and viewed the alibi provider more negatively than did participants without such an expectation, and that a label of “alibi” was not enough to create a presumption of guilt.