In cases of child sexual abuse (CSA), the complainant’s credibility is assessed several times and the presence of a potential motive to fabricate may challenge beliefs about children’s inherent honesty, decreasing credibility. The current paper examined how motive to fabricate influences beliefs and perceptions about a CSA case. Participants read a depiction of a complainant (7-/ 15- year old) under direct-examination. They provided ratings about the witnesses, answered a questionnaire measuring beliefs, and indicated whether ambiguous evidence was used towards a conviction or acquittal. One week later participants read the cross-examination (motive/ no motive to fabricate), and completed the same measures. Shifts in ratings across the sessions were observed. Motive influenced honesty ratings of the accused in the 7– year old condition and the interpretation of ambiguous evidence. Shifts were observed even when individuals were asked to report their session one responses, suggesting subsequent information influenced memory for original judgments.
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Thesis advisor: Connolly, Deborah
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