Date of Award

January 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Andre Kehn


The goal of the present study is to assess the affect testimonial supports have on mock jurors’ perceptions of child witnesses in a sexual abuse case. In general jurors’ perceptions operate on a two-factor model. The two factors are child competency and honesty. Jurors perceive children’s competency and honesty differently based on the child’s age and the mock juror’s gender. Testimonial supports have been suggested as a way to relieve some of the stress that a trial brings on a child. However, this seems to exacerbate the negative perceptions jurors already hold of child witnesses. The current juror perceptions of child witness credibility when emotional support animals were used as a testimonial aid. Participants read one of six interviews of a child sexual abuse victim that varied the testimonial aid and child witness age. They then answered questionnaires to indicate their perception of the child’s credibility and the verdict they would render in the case. Overall, there were no differences in child witness credibility across the three testimonial aids. However, the defendant in the cases where the child used emotional support animal was more likely to be found guilty than the defendant in the hearsay condition. Participants also rated 4 year olds as more credible across all three dimensions: cognitive ability, suggestibility, and honesty. These findings are contrary to past research findings and limitations and implications are discussed.