Written Versus Oral Reporting — Implications for Forms Programs

Question for readers of this post.

It is getting a lot of hits. Does anyone know what is listing/referring/using it?  My analytics are not telling me anything.  Please tell me by sending me an e-mail, richard(at)zorza.net.



Richard Moorhead reports on his blog an interesting study of differences between oral and written reporting.  The abstract is as follows:

The aim of the current study was to test whether the modality of testing (written vs. spoken) matters when obtaining eyewitness statements. Writing puts higher demands on working memory than speaking because writing is slower, less practiced, and associated with the activation of graphemic representations for spelling words (Kellogg, 2007). Therefore, we hypothesized that witnesses’ spoken reports should elicit more details than written ones. Participants (N = 192) watched a staged crime video and then gave a spoken or written description of the course of action and the perpetrator. As expected, spoken crime and perpetrator descriptions contained more details than written ones, although there was no difference in accuracy. However, the most critical (central) crime and perpetrator information was both more extensive and more accurate when witnesses gave spoken descriptions. In addition to cognitive factors, social factors are considered which may drive the effect. (Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.)

Here’s the question: does this mean that document assembly software will collect less detail than would be the case from an attorney or paralegal human interview.  If so, (and it is a big if) then we need to think about asking extra questions to get at the detail required.  There might also be other strategies for ensuring the information, such as careful wording and testing of questions, use of sample answers, etc.)

It is not hard to imagine some research that would compare the product of traditional questioning with first an online document assembly program already in use, and then an enhanced version of that program using a standard protocol for the enhancement.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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3 Responses to Written Versus Oral Reporting — Implications for Forms Programs

  1. Pingback: Innovation Ideas Based on SJI Priority Investment Areas | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

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  3. Cristina Llop says:

    I’d never thought about this in these terms before but it makes a lot of sense. As a lawyer, I tend to be much more complete in writing, but in thinking about the countless self-represented litigants I’ve helped in self-help centers, I can say that in almost all circumstances, they would explain the events/facts in their case in much more detail, much more freely and comfortably, verbally. But, when asked to put the same story in writing for a declaration, a 10 minute description would boil down to one line, e.g. “I’m scared.” So, for form completion programs, the questions you pose are critical…. can we build in enough prompts to get the full story out, or do they have to always be accompanied by a person to draw the story out verbally?

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