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Why emotions matter: Expectancy violation and affective response mediate the emotional victim effect

Journal article
Authors Karl Ask
Sara Landström
Published in Law and Human Behavior
Volume 34
Issue 5
Pages 392-401
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 392-401
Language en
Keywords credibility, rape victims, emotions, cognitive load
Subject categories Psychology, Applied Psychology


The mechanisms behind the ‘emotional victim effect’ (i.e., that the emotionality of a rape victim’s demeanor affects perceived credibility) are relatively unexplored. In this article, a previously neglected mechanism—observers’ affective response to the victim—is proposed as an alternative to the traditional expectancy-violation account. The emotional victim effect was replicated in an experiment with a sample of police trainees (N = 189), and cognitive load was found to increase the magnitude of the effect. Importantly, both compassionate affective response and expectancy violation actively mediated the emotional victim effect when the other mechanism was controlled for. These findings extend previous research on credibility judgments by introducing a ‘hot’ cognitive component in the judgment process. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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