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Eyewitness Testimony and More.

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By goldapril
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itEyewitness Testimony
- Evidence given by a witness to a significant event such as a crime or serious accident.
- The evidence usually takes forms of personal identification or verbal account of what happened.
- Problems can occur at any point in the memory process: 1) Acquisition: Information the person perceives
Poor viewing conditions
Focus on weapons 2) Storage: Information the person stores in memory
Misleading information
Source misattribution errors 3) Retrieval: Information the person retrieves at a later time
Best guesses in line-up identification
Leading questions
- Inaccurate eyewitness testimony can have very serious consequences leading to wrongful convictions.
- Why eyewitness testimony may be unreliable? * The role of anxiety:
Baddeley 1997 reported that 74% of suspects convicted in 300 cases where eyewitness identification was the only evidence against them.
Anxiety may lead to unreliable remembering depends on number of factors. * Research on ‘weapon focus’
Loftus 1979: P were exposed to one of the 2 situations; 1- They overheard a low-key discussion about an equipment failure. A person then emerged holding a pen with grease on his hands. 2- They overheard a heated and hostile exchange between people in the lab. After the sound of breaking glass and crashing chairs, a man emerged from the lab holding a paper knife covered in blood. P were then given 50 photos to try and identify the person. Findings: 1- Accurately identified the person 49% of the time. 2- Successfully 33% of the time. Conclusion: Reported a lab experiment which demonstrated the powerful role that anxiety can play in undermining the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. * Research on witnessing real-life events
Yuille and Cutshall 1986: they interviewed 13 witnesses to a real-life shooting involving the owner of the store and an armed thief. The storeowner was wounded but recovered. The thief was shot dead. Findings: Those closest to the event provided the most detail, misleading questions had no effect on accuracy.

* The role of schemas:
Schemas are knowledge packages which are built up through experience of the world and which enable us to make sense of familiar situations and aid the interpretation of new information.
Cohen 1993 suggested 5 ways in which schemas might lead to reconstructive memory: 1) We tend to ignore aspects of a scene. 2) We can store the central features of an event without having to store the exact details. 3) We can make sense of what we have seen by filling in missing information. 4) We distort memories for events to it in with prior expectations. 5) We may use schemas to provide the basis for a correct guess. * Research findings on the role of schemas:
Brewer and Treyens 1981: Investigated the effects of schemas on visual memory by asking their 30 P, one at a time, to wait in a room for 35 seconds. The room was designed to look like an office with 61 objects. Findings: P were most likely to recall the typical office items, 8 P recalled the skull.
- Evaluation of the role of schemas: - Bransford and Johnson 1972 provided evidence to show how schemas affect our ability to store information. - Little doubt that we do use stored knowledge and past experience to make sense of new information. * The age of witness:
People think that children are unreliable witnesses and that their testimony should be treated as suspect. There are also times when the child is the only witness and who can provide a testimony.
Koriat et al (2001) made a distinction; they looked at the amount of information given by children and also at its accuracy.
How much is remembered? Most researchers have agreed that children are the ones who provide a complete account of past events.
How accurate is the memory? Some studies have found that children are less accurate than adults.
- Factors affecting the accuracy of children’s eyewitness testimony:
- Encoding: Ceci and Bruck (1993) believe that children have a lack of an appropriate schema or script for the event witnessed.
- Storage: The time between encoding and retrieval increases, recall and recognition declines.

- Main factors that affect children’s EWT:
- Interviewer bias: Interviewer has a fixed idea about what really happened, this can lead to attempts to get the child to confirm the interviewer’s bias.
- Repeated questions: Young children are more likely to change their answers when they question is repeated.
- Peer pressure: peer pressure can influence what children report. * Use of leading questions:
A question is worded in a way that it might bias how a respondent answers.
Loftus and Palmer (1974) showed PP a film of a car accident and then asked them leading questions.
Misleading Information and Cognitive Interview * The effects of misleading information * Research on misleading information:
Loftus et al. (1978): PP were divided into 2 groups and were shown slides of the events that led up to a car accident. The slides for each group were identical except for 1 slide: Group 1 saw a red car stopping at a junction with a yield sign. Group 2 saw the same car stopping at a junction with a stop sign. After they were asked 20 questions. Findings: 75% of PP who had received the consistent questions picked the correct slide compared with 41& who had been given the misleading question.
Strength: Loftus and Loftus (1980) found that accuracy in the misled group did not increase even when participants were offered money for picking the correct slide.
Weakness: PP were showing static slides. We cannot conclude that memory would be affected by misleading questions in the same way in real-life situation.

- Evaluation of research on misleading information:
- Loftus’ research has shown us that events can be altered in the light of misleading post-event information.
- Loftus’ studies have been criticised for their artificiality. It is difficult to reproduce such conditions in the lab for various practical and ethical reasons.

The Cognitive Interview
- To recreate the context of the original incident: trying to recall an image of the setting including details such as weather, the lighting, distinctive smells etc.
- To report every detail: requires to report back any information about the events you can remember.
- To recall the event in different orders: encouraged to describe the event in reverse order or to start with in aspect of the scene which seems most memorable.
- To change perspectives: asked to attempt to describe the incident from the perspective of other people who were present at the time. * Research on the Cognitive Interview:
Geiselman and colleagues tested the effectiveness of the cognitive interview schedule by comparing it with standard police interviewing techniques.
Cognitive interview:
Correct items – 41.5%
Incorrect items – 7.3%
Standard interview:
Correct items – 29.4%
Incorrect items – 6.1%
- Evaluation of the cognitive interview:
- Bekerian and Dennett (1993) found in studies that cognitive interview has provided more accurate information than other interview procedures.
Strategies for memory improvement
- Paying attention
- Use of elaborative rehearsal
- Organisation
- Using mnemonics:
Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain
Method of Loci: you need to identify a set of familiar places that you can imagine walking through. The number you choose depends on the number of items you need to remember.
- Spacing your studies

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