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Cognitive studies
Loftus and Palmer
Aim To investigate the effect of leading questions on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Will the
use of more severe sounding verbs to describe an accident lead participants to:
-produce a higher estimate of speed?
-be more likely to incorrectly recall the presence of broken glass?
Procedure The study was conducted in two parts. LABORATORY EXPERIMENTS.
They are both examples of an independent measures design. The independent variable in both of
the experiments is the verb used. The dependent variable in the first experiment is the participant's
speed estimate and the dependent variable in the second experiment is whether the participant
believed they saw glass.
Part one
Participants 45 students of the University of Washington were participating in this study. They were
allocated in five groups of nine.
Procedure The participants were shown seven film-clips of traffic accidents. The clips were short
extracts from safety films made for driver education. The clips ranged from 5 to 30 seconds long.
Participants were asked to write a short account of what they had seen and were then told to fill in
questionnaires which consisted of a critical question regarding the speed estimate of the vehicle.
There were five conditions in this experiment and the independent variable was manipulated by the
means of the wording of the questions (i.e the verbs). The five conditions were "smash", "hit",
"bump", "collide" and "contacted". The basic question was therefore about "how fast were the cars
going when they ______ each other?"
Independent variable: Verbs used in question
Dependent variable: Estimate of speed
Results The more severe-sounding the verb used in the critical question, the higher the speed
estimate. For example the word "smashed" produced a mean estimate of 40.8mph while
"contacted" produced a mean estimate of 31.8.
Verb Mean estimate of speed (mph)
Smashed 40.8
Collided 39.3
Bumped 38.1
Hit 34.0
Contacted 31.8
Conclusion Loftus and Palmer gave two explanations of the finding of their first experiment.
1. Results could be due to a distortion in the memory of the participants. The memory of how fast the
cars were travelling could have been distorted by the verbal label which had been used to
characterise the intensity of the crash.

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Cognitive studies
2. The bias factors may have also influenced the results; in this case the participants weren't sure
about the exact speed and therefore adjust his or her estimate to fit in with the expectations of the
questioner (demand characteristics).
Part two The second experiment was to provide additional insights into the origin of the different
speed estimates. In particular they wanted to find out if the participants' memories really had been
distorted by the verbal label.
Participants 150 students were used.…read more

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Cognitive studies
1. HFA ­ high functioning autism. 16 participants, of average intelligence. 13 male, three
female. Mean IQ of 105.3
2. AS ­ Asparagus syndrome. 50 participants. 25 male and 25 female. Drawn from general
population of Cambridge. Assumed to have IQs in the normal range.
3. Tourette's syndrome. Ten participants. Eight male, two female. Aged matched with Group1.
Mean IQ of 103.…read more

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Cognitive studies
Finally, the two control tasks were:
Gender recognition task ­ this involved looking at the same sets of eyes in the experimental task,
but this time identifying the gender of the person in each photograph. This is a social judgement
without involving mind reading, and allowed the researchers to check if any deficits on the Eyes Task
could be attributed to general deficits in face perception, perceptual discrimination, or social
perception. This also had a maximum score of 25.…read more

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Cognitive studies
2. Sherman and Austin's keyboard was not equipped with a speech synthesiser because tests
revealed that unlike Kanzi and Mulika, they did not understand spoken English words.
3. Sherman and Austin did not use a keyboard outside of the laboratory because their
specificity of symbol use tended to decrease when they used a board that did not require
discrete response.…read more

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Cognitive studies
3. Pygmy chimpanzees and the common chimpanzees differed in the way they used general
and specific symbols. Common chimpanzees easily generalise symbols but could not easily
learn to specify. For example, they may use juice and coke interchangeably.
4. Sherman and Austin never formed requests in which someone other than themselves was
the beneficiary of the request.


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