Language in court: How linguistic factors influence decision making


A common experience when reading a book is being absorbed by the story that is told. This process is known as transportation into a narrative. Transportation makes the narrative world appear more real and increases attachment to and strong feelings for the characters in the story. However, transportation also reduces critical thinking. This raises the question whether transportation hurts in situations that require critical thinking. The research described in this proposal will address this question with respect to decision making in court, a process that ought to be rational. It will be investigated whether the experience of being transported while reading fictive criminal case files influences the processing of information and decision making. Because subtle differences in the use of language (e.g., grammatical aspect, direct vs. indirect speech, active vs. passive voice) are known to influence transportation, these linguistic cues will be manipulated across case files. The fact that these cues vary across real police reports contributes to the external validity of this project. Both laymen and professionals working in the legal system will participate in the proposed studies. This makes the results practically relevant for jury as well as bench trials. Also, this allows for the investigation of the role of prior knowledge, experiences and expectations. The proposed research uses corpus and context analyses, eyetracking, and memory and judgment tasks. Because of this combination of methods, all aspects of the decision making process can be studied. An important innovative aspect of this project is that it combines research in the areas of (psycho)linguistics and cognitive psychology to explore topics in the forensic field. The results will contribute to a better understanding of the influence of subtle variations in language on the processing and evaluating of police reports. This is necessary to improve legal decision making and promote justice.


Wetenschappelijk artikel





Dr. A. Eerland

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen


Dr. A. Eerland


01/01/2015 tot 27/02/2019