Stereotypes and “Body Language” in Courtrooms: When Misconceptions Distort Justice

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In adversarial justice systems (e.g., Canada, United States), witnesses testify, and judges in bench trials (or jurors in jury trials) listen and assess what is said. This can result in judges or jurors determining the weight that should be given to testimonies. Research has shown, however, that this process is inherently subjective. This presentation will address how unfounded, discredited, and pseudoscientific claims about nonverbal cues and behaviors, from police investigations to courtrooms, can undermine adversarial justice systems worldwide. Measures to mitigate these negative consequences will also be addressed.

About Vincent Denault

Vincent Denault is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology of McGill University, and a Lecturer in the Faculty of Law of University of Sherbrooke. His past positions include Lecturer in the Department of Communication of University of Montreal, Postdoctoral Scholar at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology and the Public Law Research Center of University of Montreal, and Research Consultant at the Department of Communication of University of California, Santa Barbara. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication (University of Montreal, 2020) and a Master of Laws (University of Quebec in Montreal, 2015). His research focuses on issues related to witness testimony, credibility assessment, deception detection, and nonverbal behavior in courtrooms. Vincent Denault is the co-founder of the Center for Studies in Nonverbal Communication Sciences of the Research Center of the Montreal Mental Health University Institute, and the co-founder of the Deception Research Society. He is the recipient of several grants and awards, including the inaugural Emerging Scholar Award (2016) of the Nonverbal Division of the National Communication Association. In addition to his work in academia, Vincent Denault is a lawyer and a coroner investigating deaths that occurred as a result of negligence or in obscure or violent circumstances.

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