Yarmey (2004)

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  • Yarmey (2004)
    • Aim:
      • To test eyewitness recall and ability to identify a target from a photo line-up in a field experiment
    • Procedure:
      • Sample of 590 men and women approached by a female target who asked for directions or help in finding a lost piece of jewellery
      • 2 minutes later the participant is asked by a researcher to participate in a study about memory
        • Given a 16-question recall test that includes questions about physical characteristics and clothing of the female target
          • Participants then given a set of 6 photos showing women similar to the female target and asked to identify her
            • Photos randomly presented one at a time and participants told target may or may not be in the line-up
              • Participants thoroughly debriefed afterwards
      • Procedure was standardised and identical for each participant save for 3 variables:
        • Preparation: some participants were told to prepare for a memory test by the female target and some weren't
        • Line-up: some saw the target in the line-up whilst others didn't
        • Retention time span: some participants were required to recall immediately after and others four hours later
        • Participants were randomly allocated to the conditions
      • Yarmey also asked 370 psychology undergrads to predict how much eyewitness would be able to recall
    • Results:
      • Age: 97%, Height: 60%, Hair colour: 52%, Weight: 44%, Eye colour: 21%
      • Bottom clothing: 65%, Top clothing: 60%, Footwear: 18%, Jewellery 16%
      • Unsurprising that small characteristics such as jewellery and eye colour resulted in poor recall
      • Psychology undergrads largely incorrect; overestimated recall for hair colour, jewellery and footwear and underestimated age
      • Not much difference whether recall was immediate or after a four-hour delay
      • Photo identification had 49% correct identification rate when target was present and rejection rate of 62% when she wasn't
    • Conclusion:
      • Witness preparation didn't improve eyewitness identification
      • Students significantly over-estimated how many witnesses would be able to identify the target correctly
    • Evaluation
      • Has ecological validity as witnesses were approached by the target in a realistic environment
      • Participants wouldn't have been aware they were in a study until the researcher approaches them which increases validity, especially over typical lab studies
      • Good generalisability as participants were of varied ages, backgrounds and experiences
      • Lacks control over situational variables such as participants being too busy to pay attention or noise around them making it difficult to focus
        • However, it could be argued an experience with no controls is more typical of a real witness and real incident


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