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The Gestural Misinformation Effect: Skewing Eyewitness Testimony Through Gesture

Daniel J. Gurney, Karen J. Pine and Richard Wiseman
The American Journal of Psychology
Vol. 126, No. 3 (Fall 2013), pp. 301-314
DOI: 10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.3.0301
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/amerjpsyc.126.3.0301
Page Count: 14
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The Gestural Misinformation Effect: Skewing Eyewitness Testimony Through Gesture
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Abstract

The susceptibility of eyewitnesses to verbal suggestion has been well documented, although little attention has been paid to the role of nonverbal communication in misinformation. Three experiments are reported; in each, participants watched footage of a crime scene before being questioned about what they had observed. In Experiments 1 and 2, an on-screen interviewer accompanied identically worded questions with gestures that either conveyed accurate information about the scene or conveyed false, misleading information. The misleading gestures significantly influenced recall, and participants' responses were consistent with the gestured information. In Experiment 3, a live interview was conducted, and the gestural misinformation effect was found to be robust; participants were influenced by misleading gestures performed by the interviewer during questioning. These findings provide compelling evidence for the gestural misinformation effect, whereby subtle hand gestures can implant information and distort the testimony of eyewitnesses. The practical and legal implications of these findings are discussed.

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