Effects of Inconsistencies in Eyewitness Testimony on Mock-Juror Decision Making

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Published in: Journal of Applied Psychology. Vol.81, No.2, 1996, p.170-177.


In attempting to impeach an eyewitness, attorneys often highlight inconsistencies in the eyewitness's recall. This study examined the differential impact of types of inconsistent testimony on mock-juror decisions. Participants viewed 1 of 4 versions of a videotaped trial in which the primary evidence against the defendant was the testimony of the eyewitness. The types of inconsistent statements given by the eyewitness in the 4 versions were manipulated: (a) consistent testimony, (b) information given on the stand but not during the pretrial investigation, (c) contradictions between on-the-stand and pretrial statements, and (d) contradictions made on the stand. Participants exposed to any form of inconsistent testimony were less likely to convict and found the defendant less culpable and the eyewitness less effective. These effects were larger for contradictions than for information given on the stand but not during pretrial investigations.