The Effect of Denial of the Victim Arguments Within Simulated Suspect Interviews

Alina Schmuck, Chiara A.E. Wüller, Steven James Watson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Suspects try to influence others to reduce the likelihood and severity of any punishment. One influence behaviour is Denial of the Victim (DoV), whereby suspects argue that victims deserved any negative behaviour from the suspect due to their own provocations. DoV arguments are expected to shift attributions of blame from suspects onto victims. We test this proposal, and whether DoV arguments are more effective or not depending on whether suspects accusations against victims are accurate or not. We also test for any effect of Suspect or Victim Behaviour on judgements of suspect Guilt, severity of punishment, and empathy and sympathy for the victim and suspect. Participants (N = 194) completed an online experiment in which they were presented interview scripts where suspects responded with DoV arguments or No Comment. Participants were also given a case summary which indicated that the alleged victim either engaged in negative relationship behaviour (infidelity), did not, or where no information about past behaviour was provided. DoV increased Attribution of Blame to The Victim but did not affect Attribution of Blame to the Suspect. DoV also reduced Sympathy with The Victim. Participants recommended stronger punishment when suspects accused victims of negative relationship behaviour when there was evidence these claims were false. There were no effects on victim or suspect empathy or perceived guilt. DoV has a stronger effect on
perceptions of victims than of suspects, and participants may recommend stronger punishment when Denial of the Victim arguments are believed to be false.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Aug 2021
EventEuropean Association of Psychology and Law Conference - Online
Duration: 23 Aug 202127 Aug 2021
Conference number: 2


ConferenceEuropean Association of Psychology and Law Conference
Internet address


  • Control and coercion
  • Attribution theory
  • investigative interviewing
  • influence behaviours
  • denial of the victim


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