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Motivational bias in criminal investigators’ judgments of witness reliability

Journal article
Authors Karl Ask
Pär-Anders Granhag
Published in Journal of Applied Social Psychology
Volume 37
Issue 3
Pages 561-591
Publication year 2007
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 561-591
Language en
Keywords motivational bias; criminal investigators; judgment; witness reliability; time pressure; cognitive closure; hypothesis
Subject categories Psychology


An experiment was conducted where experienced criminal investigators (N = 49) evaluated the testimony of a witness who either confirmed or disconfirmed the focal hypothesis in a homicide case. Participants’ motivation to perpetuate the hypothesis was manipulated by varying the need for cognitive closure via time pressure. The hypothesis-inconsistent witness was perceived as less reliable and credible, although its background and witnessing conditions were identical to those of the hypothesis-consistent witness. While this asymmetrical skepticism was not moderated by time pressure, participants under high (vs. low) time pressure were less inclined to adjust their confidence in the hypothesis in line with the witness testimony. Discussion focuses on implications for criminal investigations and theoretical contributions to investigative psychology

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