Language Barriers in Eyewitness Testimonies : The Effects of Speaking a Non-native Language on Accuracy and Perceived Confidence

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Psykologiska institutionen

Author: Karolina Kamra Kregert; [2021]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: Testifying can be a highly stressful and taxing experience for an eyewitness. When testifying in a non-native language, the native language may interfere with the memory retrieval process. Thus, non-native speaking eyewitnesses face additional difficulties when providing their testimonies. However, it is unknown how the language barrier may affect the accuracy of the testimony. A sample of 33 Swedish-speaking participants were shown a mock crime film and gave a testimony in either a native or non-native (English) language. Ratings of perceived cognitive effort, perceived credibility and confidence of the testimony were also given. No significant differences were found. However, small differences were found with non-native speaking participants reporting fewer correct details, lower confidence, and lower perceived credibility. This could suggest that the judicial system needs to be aware of the difficulties faced by non-native speaking eyewitnesses and take these into account when evaluating these witnesses in order to achieve legal certainty. Sample size, other limitations and suggestions for future research is further discussed.

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