Persuasive Question Asking: How Question Wording Influences Answers

Annual Meeting of the State Bar Association of California, Anaheim, CA., 2007

Posted: 13 Oct 2010

See all articles by Kathy Kellermann

Kathy Kellermann

ComCon Kathy Kellermann Communication Consulting

Date Written: September 27, 2007

Abstract

A review of social science literatures demonstrates that attorneys' questions put words in witnesses' mouths. Questions shape answers through word choice, response framing, assumptions made, and form. Subtle changes in language influence how witnesses understand and answer questions. Response framing suggests and excludes answers, limiting the questions that are acceptable and influencing the answers witnesses provide. Presumptuous questions that are unbalanced (one-sided) and/or assumptive lead witnesses to think differently, and so respond differently. A question's form amplifies and diminishes tendencies witnesses have to agree or disagree, to speak openly or save face, and to feel threatened or comfortable. Changes in word choice, suggested responses, presumptions and form of questions affect answers witnesses provide.

Keywords: question asking, suggestive questions, leading questions, suggestive questioning, misleading questions, attorney, witness, testimony, deposition, trial, court, juror

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Kellermann, Kathy, Persuasive Question Asking: How Question Wording Influences Answers (September 27, 2007). Annual Meeting of the State Bar Association of California, Anaheim, CA., 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1691186

Kathy Kellermann (Contact Author)

ComCon Kathy Kellermann Communication Consulting ( email )

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