Ng, Magdalene Y.L. (2016) Innocence and Guilt Detection in High-Stakes Television Appeals. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The present thesis explored the cognitive and affective mechanisms underlying the cues used to make innocence-guilt decisions in the high-stakes situation of television appeals in which people appeal publicly for the return of a loved one.

Two aspects of the processes involved in making judgements of veracity were studied. Part 2 examined the interaction between explicit and implicit judgments. The studies in Part 2 experimentally manipulated aspects of 12 appeals to test hypotheses about the heuristics judges used to determine veracity. The hypotheses in these studies were initially based on the central assumption that in the absence of unambiguous information judges will draw on heuristics to make veracity judgments. These cognitive shortcuts were hypothesised to lead to biases in innocence-guilt judgments. The innocence bias was introduced as a potential predisposition that stood to be tested. Results did not reveal a consistent innocence or guilt bias. Rather, while all four experiments in Part 2 indicated the presence of different underlying cognitive processes across all experimental conditions, the results from these studies would appear to challenge the existence of any intrinsic tendency towards biases.

In Part 3, the context of the appeals was taken as the basis for the assumption that truthful people would give clearer indications of grief than ones who were lying. Multivariate cues were analysed simultaneously using 39 appeals, with a theoretical basis drawn from the grief literature. Eight previously unidentified aspects consisting of verbal cues drawn from grief literature are found to distinguish honest and deceptive appeals with high accuracy and reliability.

The work thus contributed to the initial understanding of the interaction between explicit and implicit decisions in making innocence-guilt judgments. Standing models of cognitive processing and their implications for the present thesis were also discussed. Contingent upon further clarification of cognitive processes involved during innocence and guilt verdict decision-making, the findings are particularly germane to the area of televised press conferences and have implications for police and practice.

FINAL THESIS - NG.pdf - Accepted Version
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