anxiety and eyewitness testimony

notes on the inverted U theory and supporting and opposing research

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Anxiety and eyewitness testimony
Loftus-weapon focus
Asked some participants to come to a lab and to wait outside. They
expected to go into the lab and aren't expecting the next events.
The participants then hear a scuffle in the lab and shouting, a person comes
out of the lab with a pen and greasy hands. In the second condition another
person comes out holding a knife covered in blood.
Later the participants were then shown 50 photos and asked to pick the one
of the person who came out of the room with the knife.
49% of the participants thought it was the man with the pen and greasy
33% thought it was the man with the bloody knife.
Less remembered the man who held the knife as they were scared of the
knife so focused all their attention on the knife instead of the persons face.
High ecological validity as this happened in real life.
Ethics- caused harm as it caused a lot of distress when it happened and also
it meant that the participants were deceived from the true purpose of the
experiment at first.
Inverted U theory
If you are calm (low arousal) then you don't pay attention to an event, and
so you don't remember much of it (low performance)
If you become alert (medium arousal) then you start to pay attention more
and therefore you remember the event well (high performance)
If you become scared (high arousal) then you don't pay attention (low
performance) as you are so scared you remember little (low performance).
Loftus and Barns
Participants watched a CCTV video of a boy being shot in the face.
In the 1st condition the participants watched the video
In the 2nd condition the participants saw the boy wasn't injured.
Results shown participants had a worse recall of the event if they saw
the boy with a head wound; this arouses then and raises their memory
Supports inverted U theory
Lacks ecological validity as it uses a video, not real life
Yuille and Cutshall

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Reviewed statements from 21 witnesses of a real robbery where a man
tried to steal a gun from a gun shop.
Witnesses saw the thief shot 6 times and then die
Recall was found to be accurate, even after a long time, 2 misleading
questions inserted into the interview by the researchers had no effect.
Therefore, in real life situations anxiety may not hinder memory
performance.…read more


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