Disclosure of child sexual abuse: expressed emotions and credibility judgments of a child mock victim
Both lay persons and professionals believe that the emotions displayed by a child witness during disclosure of sexual abuse are a factor of importance when judging the child’s credibility.
Unfortunately, not all children display emotions according to expectations, leading to misjudgments, and possible miscarriage of justice. In the present study, we examined how lay people's credibility judgments were influenced by a child's displayed emotions during the disclosure of sexual abuse. Participants (n = 119), viewed video recordings of a mock police interview of an 11-year-old child actor disclosing sexual abuse, displaying one of four emotional expressions (angry, sad, neutral, and positive). Results showed that participants were strongly influenced by the emotions displayed; in particular, the display of strong negative emotions (anger) or positive emotions during disclosure significantly reduced judged credibility. The credibility ratings predicted the participantś judgments of the defendant's guilt and the willingness to pass a guilty vote in a hypothetical trial.
Psychology, Crime and Law, 2016, doi: 10.1080/1068316X.2015.1109087