Date of Award

1-1-2000

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Masters in Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Paul Chang

Abstract

Past research has shown that the speech style employed by 11 witness in a jury trial may affect their credibility (Erikson, Lind, Johnson, & ()'Barr, 1978). One common linguistic device used by witnesses is a rising intonation, which is defined as the inflection of a speaker’s tone that occurs at the end of a spoken passage. Past research has shown that the use of a rising intonation in speech can add a questioning tone to a passage or signify that the speaker is unsure of what they are saying (Smith and Clark. 1993). If a witness uses a rising intonation they may sound less believable to a juror. The effect of rising intonation on the credibility of witness testimony was examined in the present study. Three independent variables were tested: the intonation contour at the end of a spoken witness statement (rising or nonrising); the gender of the witness; and the gender of the participant. Five dependent variables relating to how subjects judged the believability and credibility of the witness statements were measured. The primary finding was that rising intonation alone did not significantly affect perceptions of the speaker's credibility. However, the gender of the speaker was found to affect overall believability, with female speakers being rated as significantly less believable than male speakers. The results are interpreted from a sociocultural perspective, with the suggestion that rising intonation, given its frequency of use amongst Australian speakers, does not seem to indicate that the speaker is uncertain about their statements.

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