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Do testimonies of traumatic events differ depending on the interviewer?


Brönnimann, Rebecca; Herlihy, Jane; Müller, Julia; Ehlert, Ulrike (2013). Do testimonies of traumatic events differ depending on the interviewer? European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context, 5(1):97-121.

Abstract

While differences in witness narratives due to different interviewers may have implications for their credibility in court, this study considers how investigative interviews by different parties to the proceedings, as well as the gender and nationality of interviewers, can influence the testimony of witnesses in court who share comparable traumatic experiences. The foundation of the analysis was answers given to judges, prosecutors, civil party lawyers and defence lawyers in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) located in Phnom Penh. Transcribed testimonies of 24 victim witnesses and civil parties which were translated from Khmer into English were analysed using a computer-based text analysis program, the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Results showed that when answering questions by females, witnesses used significantly more cognitive process words. When interviewed by international rather than by Cambodian parties to the proceeding witness accounts were composed of significantly more verbal expressions of affective processes and of perceptual processes. Furthermore, witnesses used most cognitive and affective process words during the interview by civil party lawyers and defence lawyers. These results may be due to a prior supportive relationship between civil parties and their lawyers and due to a more interrogative question style by the defence lawyers, who attempt to undermine the credibility of the interviewed witnesses. Data shows that LIWC analysis is an appropriate method to examine witness accounts and, therefore, contributes to a better understanding of the complex relationship between testimony in events under litigation and credibility.

Abstract

While differences in witness narratives due to different interviewers may have implications for their credibility in court, this study considers how investigative interviews by different parties to the proceedings, as well as the gender and nationality of interviewers, can influence the testimony of witnesses in court who share comparable traumatic experiences. The foundation of the analysis was answers given to judges, prosecutors, civil party lawyers and defence lawyers in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) located in Phnom Penh. Transcribed testimonies of 24 victim witnesses and civil parties which were translated from Khmer into English were analysed using a computer-based text analysis program, the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC). Results showed that when answering questions by females, witnesses used significantly more cognitive process words. When interviewed by international rather than by Cambodian parties to the proceeding witness accounts were composed of significantly more verbal expressions of affective processes and of perceptual processes. Furthermore, witnesses used most cognitive and affective process words during the interview by civil party lawyers and defence lawyers. These results may be due to a prior supportive relationship between civil parties and their lawyers and due to a more interrogative question style by the defence lawyers, who attempt to undermine the credibility of the interviewed witnesses. Data shows that LIWC analysis is an appropriate method to examine witness accounts and, therefore, contributes to a better understanding of the complex relationship between testimony in events under litigation and credibility.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Erstautor DoktoratPsych
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:19 Dec 2012 10:10
Last Modified:26 Jan 2017 08:53
Publisher:Sociedad Española de Psicologia Jurídica y Forense
ISSN:1889-1861

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