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C Circumstance or context
This is not a common credibility criterion and is rarely used. However, knowing the
circumstance or context of the actual setting (eg crime scene) can be a good way of judging
whether or not the claim from the author/witness is relevant to the subject discussed.
Sometimes we have a good idea whether or not a witness is going to be reliable, even
before we look at the details of their testimony or the situation, simply based on their
reputation. A good reputation strengthens someone's claim, while a bad reputation weakens
Professionals such as teachers, lawyers, or doctors are considered to derive credibility from
their professional status. If they weren't trustworthy, then it is less likely that they would
have been able to make it in their profession. Status can also be boosted by recognition. If
someone wins an award for the quality of their work, or has a title bestowed upon them,
then this is a positive sign.
Also, it's good to remember that estate agents and politicians are generally regarded as not
having a very good reputation and this criterion would weaken their credibility.
Don't forget that if we know that someone has told lies in the past, then we will be less
trusting of them in future. If, on the other hand, we have long experience suggesting that a
person is reliable, then we will be more inclined to believe them.
A Ability to see or perceive
A witness who was in a good position to observe an event directly is, other things being equal, more
credible than one who isn't. No matter how reputable or expert a witness is, if he couldn't see what
was going on, then his testimony isn't going to be much use.
Take care that this criterion isn't just about being able to see a blind person can have the ability to
The basic issue is whether a witness is in a position to know that what they are claiming is true. Do
they have direct access to the evidence, or are they speculating based on background knowledge,
past experience, and instinct when they say what took place?
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V Vested Interest
For this credibility criterion, you need to consider if a witness would personally gain something by
making a false, biased or selective claim. In the example of court cases, a person may gain
compensation, but the unsuccessful party may lose their reputation or get a penalty. This is why it's
important to consider the witness' motivation or incentive.
In the case of media sources, sensationalism may gain more readers or viewers regarding matters of
national security or election.…read more