The effectiveness of expert witnesses in civil trials involving repressed memories of sexual assault

T. L. Stewart, S. P. Whiteside, J. M. Golding

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Scopus citations


Two experiments investigated the impact of expert testimony regarding repressed memories in a childhood sexual assault trial. In Experiment 1 participants read a fictional civil trial summary involving the sexual assault of a 6-year-old female. In the first three conditions, the plaintiff testified immediately, after allegedly repressing the memory of the incident for 20 years, or after a 20-year delay without repression. In a fourth condition, also involving repression, expert testimony regarding memory and repression was added. In a post-hoc condition, experts provided testimony regarding memory recovery techniques. The results indicated that expert testimony did not significantly affect the trial decision. In Experiment 2, participants read the trial summary used in the post-hoc condition and made ratings of guilt and witness believability following each witness. The results indicated that cross-examination effectively counter-balanced the expert's direct testimony. Implications of the results are discussed in terms of past findings and the ecological validity of future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-62
Number of pages36
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Applied Psychology

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