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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. George R. Goethals

Second Advisor

Dr. Crystal L. Hoyt

Third Advisor

Mary Kelly Tate


Undergraduate students served as mock jurors by listening to audio recorded testimony of a medical expert within a simulated courtroom trial. Participants were asked to listen to the expert witness testimony and rate their responses to the witness and the message content. The expert testimony was manipulated to examine the effects of expert sex (male vs. female), speech power (powerful vs. powerless), and message complexity (high-complexity vs. low-complexity) on jurors’ judgments of agreement with the testimony. Powerful speech was more persuasive than powerless speech. It also qualified the effect of message complexity, with a powerful low- complexity message being more clear than powerless, low-complexity message. The sex of the witness influenced the testimony’s persuasiveness in several power x complexity variations. Mock jurors agreed with the male expert less than they did the female expert when both used powerless speech, yet mock jurors agreed with male and female experts equally when using powerful speech. However, adding complexity into the message affected the male and female experts differently in the two power variations. Mock jurors agreed with the male expert’s testimony more than the female expert’s when he a presented a powerful, high-complexity message. But when presenting a powerless, high-complexity message, mock jurors agreed with the female expert’s testimony more than the male expert’s. A 3-way interaction on ratings of message clarity demonstrates that speech power and message complexity may affect male and female experts differently.