Date of Award

Summer 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Ashley Batastini

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Donald Sacco

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Eric Dahlen

Committee Member 4 School



While previous research has examined behavior-based presentation styles of the female expert witness in light of source credibility, further research is required to examine the effect of other modifiable factors on her credibility, since perceived credibility affects the intermediate judgments that lead to ultimate legal decisions. This study investigated the impact of both behavior-based (i.e., posture) and appearance-based (i.e., attire and cosmetic use) factors on the female expert witness’ source credibility Model attractiveness served as a covariate in this study. A four-way (2 x 2 x 2 x 2) between-subjects analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed that, beyond an effect of target attractiveness, there was a two-way interaction between attire and posture on source credibility, F(1, 391) = 5.41, p = .021, whereby female experts were seen as marginally more credible when wearing a skirt suit and maintaining a closed posture stance as opposed to (a) wearing a skirt suit and displaying open posture and (b) wearing a pant suit and displaying closed posture. Exploratory analyses indicated that the attire x posture interaction was qualified by participant sex and level of benevolent sexism; Specifically, higher benevolent sexism in men was associated with reduced credibility perceptions with respect to the female target wearing a skirt suit and displaying an open posture. These results suggest that women’s credibility may be impacted by irrelevant peripheral cues, an effect that may be exacerbated for men who more strongly endorse traditional gender norms. Future research is needed to identify ways in which gendered expectations for these women can be mitigated, so their message is heard without undue influence from irrelevant variables. Findings from this study can inform discussions aimed at mitigating extraneous factors that inadvertently undermine the reception of female expert witness testimony.