Research: “Help Them to Speak: The Psychology of the Reluctant, Vulnerable Witness or Whistle-blower and What Influences Them to Speak Out”
This paper draws on appraisal-based theories of cognitive psychology to explain the role of emotion in the decision-making process of reluctant, vulnerable witnesses to wrongdoing who were persuaded to blow the whistle on matters of substantial public interest. It concludes that an emotional transformation is a prerequisite to the decision to speak, and that this transformation is informed by a series of evaluations the potential whistle-blower makes of the proposed action, in accordance with their deeply-held attitudes about the relevance and likelihood of the proposed action, their own coping ability, and its significance in terms of their moral and other values. Through careful and responsible interaction during the decision-making process, journalists and others can change a witness’s deeply-held attitudes about relevance, likelihood, coping and significance. This can lead to a change in the emotion associated with the proposed action, which in turn can motivate the witness to speak out.