Cognitive Mediation of Inconsistency Discounting
AbstractTwo experiments examined the effects of inconsistency and credibility information in a complex, multiple source, multiple communication criminal trial setting. The source of the inconsistent testimony was low in credibility. The testimony structure was manipulated such that association of the sources with the content of their testimony was facilitated ( ) or disrupted ( ). Subjects-jurors read testimony, rendered verdicts, and attempted to recall the testimony. Experiment 1 demonstrated that jurors' processing of unreliable testimony was influenced by the person focus manipulation. Discounting of inconsistent testimony was likely under conditions of high but not low person focus. Experiment 2 examined the relation between jurors' spontaneous cognitive reactions at encoding and the jurors' verdicts. Only high person focus jurors discounted the inconsistent testimony at encoding. The results suggest that discounting occurs in the context of jurors generating an integrated cognitive representation of the trial events that is a function of both the actual testimony items and jurors' own spontaneous inferences. Several other information processing consequences, such as organization of recall and memory for consistent and inconsistent testimony items were also examined. These data are considered in terms of their implications for recent cognitive elaboration models and models of juror decision making.