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Influence of Courtroom Questioning Style on Actual and Perceived Eyewitness Confidence and Accuracy

NCJ Number
Legal and Criminological Psychology Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2004 Pages: 83-101
Jacqueline M. Wheatcroft; Graham F. Wagstaff; Mark R. Kebbell
Ron Blackburn
Date Published
February 2004
19 pages
This report presents the results of two studies which examined the effects of questioning styles and techniques on witness accuracy and confidence and assessed jurors’ perceptions of eyewitness confidence and accuracy as a function of the type of questioning style used.
Few investigations or studies have placed focus on how those factors which influence the accuracy of eyewitness testimony are manifested in the courtroom. Two studies were conducted and findings presented on the effects of examination style on witness confidence and accuracy and observers or jurors perceptions of witness confidence and accuracy. The first study predicted that questions asked in a standard lawyer style would reduce accuracy confidence and the relationship between confidence and accuracy. It also predicted that additional reductions in accuracy and confidence would occur when the questioning style was accompanied by subtle negative feedback. The second study assessed the jurors’ perceptions of eyewitness confidence and accuracy based on the type of questioning style used. In the first study, 60 witnesses were individually interviewed about a video event according to 1 of 3 conditions: simple questioning style, lawyerese questioning style, and lawyerese with negative feedback style. In the second study, measures were taken of the perceived fairness of the examination. Overall results suggest that courtroom examination styles may have important effects on both witnesses and the perceptions of jurors. The standard lawyerese style was seen as having the potential to adversely affect the confidence-accuracy relationships primarily by decreasing confidence in accurate responses. It is recommended that the study be repeated under more life-like conditions and employ a more heterogeneous sample of witnesses. References