Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Guidance on cross-examination improves accuracy of witness testimony, study finds

Date:
June 15, 2010
Source:
University of Liverpool
Summary:
Researchers have found that witnesses who receive guidance on cross-examination techniques present more accurate court testimony than those who are unfamiliar with the style of questioning.

The study, by researchers at the Universities of Liverpool and Leeds, showed that the construction and phrasing of 'lawyerese' questions can inhibit processes in the brain that impact on how a witness responds under cross-examination. The use of complex questions, containing multiple parts, double-negatives and advanced vocabulary may affect the brain's ability to filter and streamline information effectively.

Related Articles


Researchers showed more than 50 participants footage of a staged crime, as though they were eye-witnesses, and then subjected them to the kind of questioning techniques they might encounter in court. They found that participants, who had been given prior guidance on cross-examination techniques, were seemingly able to add to their understanding of the cross-examination process, so that when they encountered complex questions in court they were more able to respond appropriately and less likely to make errors.

Dr Jacqueline Wheatcroft, from the University's Centre for Investigative Psychology, said: "Witnesses who come to court to give evidence have 'schematic' structures of experience. These structures allow the brain to organise knowledge around themes or topics. They act to streamline information so that we can cope effectively with daily life. We believe that exposing witnesses to the techniques used in cross-examination before they enter court, engages these structures, allowing the witness to organise their knowledge of events so that information can be accessed more easily in response to complex questions.

"Witnesses who are were not given prior guidance, however, are likely to work much harder to answer cross-examination questions accurately and tend to become nervous and frustrated in court as a result. Familiarisation with questioning techniques 'frees up' capacity in the brain to process information, but if a witness is not given guidance, the frontal/executive systems in the brain are potentially forced to work harder, leaving less processing capacity to work on understanding and responding to questions properly."

Dr Louise Ellison, senior lecturer in law at the University of Leeds, added: "People are going into the witness box with very little knowledge and preparation. The lay person has little idea of what to expect and this understandably impacts on their evidence. It puts witnesses at a disadvantage and barristers are able to exploit their inexperience. There is increasing evidence that the accuracy of evidence is undermined by these questioning techniques."

The study was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Liverpool. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Liverpool. "Guidance on cross-examination improves accuracy of witness testimony, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100615093240.htm>.
University of Liverpool. (2010, June 15). Guidance on cross-examination improves accuracy of witness testimony, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100615093240.htm
University of Liverpool. "Guidance on cross-examination improves accuracy of witness testimony, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100615093240.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

Fauci Says Ebola Risk in US "essentially Zero"

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) NIAID Director Anthony Fauci said the risk of Ebola becoming an epidemic in the U.S. is essentially zero Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum. He also said an Ebola vaccine will be tested in West Africa in the next few months. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

Killer History on Display at Museum of Death

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) Visitors take a trip down murderer memory lane at the Museum of Death located in the heart of Hollywood. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

Nurse Defies Ebola Quarantine With Bike Ride

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) A nurse who vowed to defy Maine's voluntary quarantine for health care workers who treated Ebola patients followed through on her promise Thursday, leaving her home for an hour-long bike ride. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ban On Wearable Cameras In Movie Theaters Surprises No One

Ban On Wearable Cameras In Movie Theaters Surprises No One

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) The Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners now prohibit wearable cameras such as Google Glass. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins