The reliability of eyewitness testimony

  • Created by: chlopayne
  • Created on: 16-04-19 19:22

The reliability of eyewitness testimony


  • Eyewitness testimony is reliable:
  • Schemas: many eyewitnesses don’t need to refer to their schemas whilst giving evidence.
  • Schemas: Yuile and Cutshall found that eyewitness were more accurate in real life crimes than laboratory based ‘crimes’. Ecological validity.
  • Child witness: Davies (1989) found that children can be accurate in their recollection of an event and they won’t deliberately lie.
  • Leading questions: eyewitnesses are often asked tricky questions, such as the speed of a car, which is a hard detail to estimate so this isn’t a fair way to say eyewitness testimonies are unreliable
  • Leading questions: Loftus (1979) shows that although witnesses may not be able to recall the suspect in a crime, they can often remember key details, which is still important evidence they can use in court.
  • Social media: crimes or events can be confirmed if there is photographic/video evidence of it or even spot further things within those photos/videos.
  • Social media: suspects can be confirmed or found through the use of social media. Or further information can be given about a crime or event.


  • Eyewitness testimony isn unreliable:
  • Schemas: Help process information quickly. However, the information we already store in our schemas can alter our memory of an event.
  • Schemas: Yarney (1993) asked 240 students to classify videos of men as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’ and the result was agreement amongst the participants, suggesting similarities in information stored about ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’
  • Child witness: memories and the fact they that are more sensitive than adults. Subject to social desirability bias.
  • Child witness: Pozzulo and Lindsay (1998) found that children under the age of 5 were less likely to be able to make correct identification of the suspect.
  • Leading questions: Loftus and Palmer’s (1974) show that key words used by someone questioning witnesses affect their recall of an event.
  • Social media: memory can be altered through the use of social media because they may have witnessed an event but may have rewatched it through an online video, maybe altering their recollection of the event


In summary, after considering both sides of the argument, it seems that eye witness testimony is reliable and is still being used as important evidence in court. 


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