Expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases - Effects of expert evidence type and cross-examination

Margaret Bull Kovera, Robert J. Levy, Eugene Borgida, Steven D. Penrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


We presented participants with syndromal, witness credibility, or anatomically detailed doll evidence to determine (a) whether these different types of expert evidence exert differential influence on participants' judgments and (b) whether the influence of this evidence could be better explained by the relative scientific status or the probabilistic qualities of the research presented. Additionally, we investigated whether a strong or weak cross-examination of the expert would be more successful in discrediting the information provided in the expert's testimony. Findings suggest that participants are less influenced by expert testimony based on probability data (i.e., syndromal evidence) than by expert testimony based on case history data (i.e., credibility of anatomically detailed doll evidence). Participant responses did not differ as a function of the strength of the cross-examination of the expert. As expected, women were more likely to respond in a pro-prosecution direction than were men. Implications for the use of expert evidence in child sexual abuse cases are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)653-674
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1994


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