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Is eye witness testimony reliable?
Eye witness testimony refers to the recalled memory of a
witness to a crime or incident. This is recorded in a police
statement or given as verbal testimony to be used as
evidence in a court of law. There is controversy about the
accuracy of eye witness testimony.…read more

Slide 3

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Why is research into EWT so important
when we have forensic evidence?
· Some crimes are well orchestrated and no forensic
evidence can be traced.
· Forensic evidence is complex and jury members may lack
the ability or confidence to interpret it but when presented
with a confident witness they can relate to, jurors are
more likely to rely on witness testimony than scientific
proof.…read more

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The case for unreliability.
· Bartlett believed that memory was an imaginative reconstruction
based on schemas. This gives EWT problems because it suggests
evidence given may not be entirely accurate.
· Loftus conducted a series of experiments using leading questions to
investigate the effect of post event information on the accuracy of
recall.
· Loftus et al (1987) found that the estimated duration of an event is
distorted. This affects the accuracy of eye witness testimony.
· Violence in the witnessed event can also affect recall. Despite most
of us believing horrific events will leave an indelible memory, most
research indicates that violence will have a negative effect on recall.
· Weapon focus is also believed to cause a narrowing of attention
resulting in peripheral details of the event not being recalled. Pickel
(1998) investigated whether the presence of a weapon affected the
ability to recall.…read more

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The case for reliability.
· It is difficult to generalise the findings of most EWT research as
typically video footage or slides are used. Participants are
onlookers so the emotion and involvement of a real incident are
not achieved. This means that the study findings lack realism.
· Lab studies lack ecological validity as participants are aware
that they need to pay attention whereas real life situations are
often confusing and happen quickly.
· Most research into EWT is drawn from limited populations of
typically undergraduate students.
· Not all details of an event can be distorted by leading
questions.
· Research into EWT has found that recall is not affected to the
extremes that laboratory research suggests.…read more

Slide 6

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Summary.
· Evidence from research to suggest eye witness recall is
inaccurate is compelling however real life witnesses
cannot be ignored.
· The Devlin report suggests we should be able to use eye
witness testimony but only with significant corroborating
evidence. This is a sensible solution because dismissing it
altogether would render some crimes such as rape,
untriable.…read more

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