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Influences of accent and ethnic background on perceptions of eyewitness testimony

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The purpose of the present work was to investigate the effect two eyewitness factors, accent and ethnic background, have on the perceived favorability of eyewitness testimony and case disposition in criminal trials. Six variations of testimony were created and videotaped. The videotapes varied by accent and ethnic background of the eyewitness; the testimony text was identical. Four eyewitness favorability variables, (a) credibility, (b) judgment of accuracy, (c) deceptiveness, and (d) prestige, as well as their relationship to case disposition, were measured. One hundred and seventy-four undergraduate participants viewed one of the six videotapes. Results indicate that there was a significant main effect of accent for the four eyewitness favorability variables. Accent by ethnic background interactions also yielded significant findings for the four variables as well as for the defendant's degree of guilt. Results were interpreted using the Elaboration Likelihood Model. The potential importance of these results for judicial settings is discussed.
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Keywords: Eyewitness; accent; courtroom; crime; ethnic background

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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