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Is truth stranger than fiction? Bizarre details and credibility assessment

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eyewitness testimony, credibility, bizarre details, fantasy proneness

Abstract (summary)

A series of three studies were designed to examine the influence of bizarreness on perceived witness credibility by mock-jurors. Study 1 investigated the relationship between bizarre details (baseline, mild, moderate, extreme), crime perspectives (victim/witness), and fantasy proneness on credibility assessment of eyewitness statements. Study 2 examined bizarreness level according to the number of bizarre details present (5, 10, or 15) and Study 3 observed the relationship between bizarreness level and the type of detail (description, action, event). The results for all three studies indicated that credibility was negatively related to level of bizarreness. In addition, action and event details were less believable relative to perpetrator descriptions, especially when bizarreness increased. Concurrently, ratings of belief in events as reported, credibility, and plausibility decreased as the number of bizarre details increased. These findings suggest that certain events may be 'too strange to be true'.

Publication Information

Peace, K. A., Brower, K. L., & Rocchio, A. (2015). Is truth stranger than fiction? Bizarre details and credibility assessment. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 30, 38-49. doi: 10.1007/s11896-014-9140-7


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