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Alibis: To Believe or Not to Believe7

Alibis are nothing new to the social world and are definitely not anything new to the legal world.  What is new, however, is the idea of research in this area.  A few noteworthy studies have been done that have laid a base for the psychology and law world to expand on.  The question still remains; what exactly is it about an alibi that makes it unbelievable?  Maybe it is the mere labeling of the information as an alibi.  The word alibi holds a negative connotation that makes people think that if a person is presenting one, there is a reason to suspect him (Olson and Wells, 2004). On the other hand, many innocent people assume that an alibi is a sure bet to prove that they did NOT commit the crime.  I believe this paper has proved that unfortunately for those innocent people out there, that is not true.  More research needs to be done into the area of alibis to prevent innocent people from being convicted for a crime they did not commit.  The idea of attribution theory in alibi believability, as examined by Hanson and Zacharias, holds a lot of promise for future research. I also hope that my research will help to understand some of the other factors that can influence alibi believability.  There is a huge amount of research that can be done in this area, which I challenge researchers to examine more in depth.  In addition I ask you to take what I have presented and formulate your own conclusions on alibis.  What could make an alibi credible?  What does it take to be believed?   These questions cannot be answered right now, but hopefully this paper has given a good history of what has been done on alibis, and has provided some different pathways for furthering our understanding of this vast topic.

References

Aronson, Elliot, Wilson, Timothy D., Akert, Robin M. (2005).  Social Perception: How We Come To Understand Other People.  Social Psychology (pp. 107-108).  New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Culhane, Scott E., & Hosch, Harmon M.  (2004).  An Alibi Witnesses’ Influence on Mock Jurors’ Verdicts.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34, 1604-1616.

Feingold, Alan, & Mazzella, Ronald.  (1994).  The Effects of Physical Attractiveness, Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Gender of Defendants and Victims on Judgments of Mock Jurors: A Meta-Analysis.  Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 24, 1315-1344.

Hanson, Bridget, & Zacharias, Jaclyn. (2005).  Alibi Effectiveness.

http://www.pbs.org/ wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/dna

Olson, Elizabeth A., & Wells, Gary L.  (2004).  What Makes a Good Alibi?  A Proposed Taxonomy.  Law and Human Behavior, 28, 157-176.

United States v. Rith, 2006.

WSU Psychology Student Journal, Issue ASarah Shurbert

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