The use of alternative scenarios in assessing the reliability of victims’ statements

Nurul Arbiyah*, Henry Otgaar, Melanie Sauerland, Eric Rassin, Enide Maegherman, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


The use of alternative scenarios has been advocated as a method to mitigate bias when evaluating the reliability of testimonies. In two experiments, undergraduate students acted as expert witnesses when reading an alleged child sexual abuse case file and evaluated the reliability of the statements. In the first experiment, a subgroup of participants were encouraged to think about alternative scenarios (i.e. the statements are fabricated) when evaluating statements (N = 150). Contrary to our expectations, these participants were not more skeptical about the reliability of the alleged victim’s testimony than the control participants. In the second experiment (N = 205), we tested whether scenario-thinking protected against context effects (i.e. the unintended influence of irrelevant information) from a defense lawyer or prosecutor. We found no support that being sensitized to alternative scenarios made participants more skeptical of the reliability of testimonies. However, when we performed an internal joint analysis of Experiments 1 and 2, we did find some evidence that considering alternative scenarios made participants more skeptical of the suspect’s guilt than those in the control group. We discuss the use of alternative scenarios in expert witness work and potential ways to empirically test the alternative scenario approach in the future.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

This work was supported by the Direktorat Jenderal Pendidikan Tinggi (Grant Number: T/966/D3.2/
KD.02.01/2019) through BPPLN scholarship granted to the first author.

Research programs



Dive into the research topics of 'The use of alternative scenarios in assessing the reliability of victims’ statements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this