Law and order effects: on cognitive dissonance and belief perseverance

Enide Maegherman*, Karl Ask, Robert Horselenberg, Peter van Koppen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Order of evidence presentation affects the evaluation and the integration of evidence in mock criminal cases. In this study, we aimed to determine whether the order in which incriminating and exonerating evidence is presented influences cognitive dissonance and subsequent display of confirmation bias. Law students (N = 407) were presented with a murder case vignette, followed by incriminating and exonerating evidence in various orders. Contrary to a predicted primacy effect (i.e. early evidence being most influential), a recency effect (i.e. late evidence being most influential) was observed in ratings of likelihood of the suspect's guilt. The cognitive dissonance ratings and conviction rates were not affected by the order of evidence presentation. The effects of evidence presentation order may be limited to specific aspects of legal decisions. However, there is a need to replicate the results using procedures and samples that are more representative of real-life criminal law trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-52
Number of pages20
JournalPsychiatry Psychology and Law
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2022


  • cognitive dissonance
  • confirmation bias
  • criminal law
  • evidence
  • judges
  • legal decision-making
  • legal psychology
  • order effects

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