I will be teaching deposition techniques at the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in June, so I read with interest a study described in Adam Alter's new book, "Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, And Behave."
A group of subjects watched videos of car accidents, and researchers asked them to estimate how fast the cars were traveling. But the questions posed differed. Some viewers were asked how fast the cars were going when they hit one another, while others were asked how fast cars were going when they smashed, collided, bumped or contacted each other.
The results? Subjects estimated that the cars that smashed into one another were traveling at 40.6 miles per hour, those that collided at 39.3 mph, the ones that bumped at 38.1 mph, those in the hit category at a mere 34.0 mph, and those that had contact at only 31.8 mph.
But, wait, it gets worse. Some of the verbs even created a false memory. The researchers waited a week, then they asked the subjects to recall whether they had seen any broken glass after the accident. Almost all the subjects who got the “hit” language in the question recalled no broken glass. But almost 33 percent of those told the cars had “smashed” recalled seeing broken glass. Can I have an "objection, form?"