Doctoral Dissertation Research: Does Cross-Examination Uncover Deception?


Project Abstract

The proposed research is designed to examine the effectiveness of currently employed cross-examination techniques in determining the truthfulness of a witness's testimony. In addition, the traditional cross-examination techniques will be tested against cross-examination strategies that are based on techniques derived from the deception detection literature. In the first phase, participants will either witness a confederate steal a wallet from a briefcase or they will not be exposed to the theft. In phase II of the experiment, we will manipulate participants' motivation to either lie or tell the truth about what they saw. Witnesses' direct and cross-examinations will be videotaped in a mock courtroom, and witnesses will either undergo a traditional cross-examination, a cross-examination based on deception detection research, or no cross examination. In phase III of the study each of the witnesses' examinations will be edited into the larger context of a theft trial. Mock jurors will view the trial and provide veracity judgments for each of the witnesses and render a verdict. The intellectual merit of this project is threefold. First, this research will be the first to examine whether traditional cross-examination methods aid jurors' in their judgments of witness truthfulness. Second, as most of the traditional cross-examination methods are based on commonsense notions of human behavior, this study will use empirical research on effective methods for detecting deception to improve the utility of the questions posed during cross-examination. Third, this research will broaden traditional examinations of deception detection by examining laypersons' veracity judgments, both of individuals whose testimony implicates a defendant's guilt and whose testimony exculpates a defendant's innocence. This research will have broader impact by providing evidence about whether our current methods of uncovering unreliable testimony are effective, which could lead to an improvement in trial procedure and the quality of justice dispensed. In addition, funding this proposal will provide research experiences and mentoring for minority undergraduate research assistants at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, an ethnically diverse group of students.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Christian A. Meissner
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CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York
United States
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