Leading question

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Not to be confused with Loaded question.

A leading question is a sentence that is presented in an interrogatory form, but provokes (or "leads" to) a particular answer. Leading questions generally take the form of presenting an allegation and asking whether it is true, and often consist of simply an assertion followed by a request for confirmation. For instance, "You like cats, don't you?" They allow the person asking the question to get across their viewpoint (making them popular when you're trying to impress an audience or jury) and often tie the answerer down into giving a simple yes-or-no answer without qualification.[1] Whether something is a leading question, or whether a leading question is legitimate, depends on the context. Studies have shown that extensive use of leading questions can lead to the generation of false memories.[2]

Because they can produce inaccurate or misleading testimony, leading questions are disallowed during direct examination of witnesses during criminal trials. More open-ended questions are preferred, such as "On the day in question, what did you observe?" not "Did you see the defendant entering the building waving a gun and shouting, 'I'm gonna pop a cap in yo ass, motherfucker'?"[1] If you ask "Do you have any problems with your boss?" you will get a more negative answer than if you ask "Tell me about your relationship with your boss."[3] One downside of this is that asking open questions leads to a lot of digression and irrelevant testimony and makes it hard to get to the important issue.[1]

The terms "leading question" and "loaded question" are often confused, and they are frequently used interchangeably to simply mean a question that is dishonest or illegitimate. However, they are different: a leading question merely opens to a particular conclusion or discussion, while a loaded question assumes a conclusion (and thus is more dishonest overall). For instance, "Have you stopped hitting your wife?" is a frequently cited loaded question; the question assumes that the person has previously hit his wife. A leading version of it would be something like "You've hit your wife, haven't you?"

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