Eye Witness Testimony Notes

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Leading Questions a question that either by its form or content, suggests to the witness
what answer is desired, or leads him to the desired answer.
Loftus & Palmer (1974)
They wanted to see if leading questions distorted the accuracy of EW recall. They showed
45 participants a video of a car crash. They were then asked:
How fast were the cars going when they... smashed
... eachother
The results showed that the leading question influenced the memory of the event because the
speed for the word `smashed' was much higher than the speed for the word `contacted'.
· High levels of control. This allowed them to determine the cause and effect i.e.
words used in the questions caused differences in recall.
· Easily replicable ­ this increases the reliability
· Applicable to daily life ­ Police interviews should avoid leading questions
· Supporting evidence ­ Loftus et al (1975) found 75% of ppts who were not misled
answered correctly, compared with 41% who were misled
· Low ecological validity ­ they used an artificial situation and so generalising the
resuslts to real life will be difficult.
Foster et al (1994) found that if participants thought they were watching a
reallife robbery and that their responses would influence the trial, their
identification of the robber was more accurate.
· Demand characteristics participants may have looked for cues on how to behave
and so may have given Loftus & Palmer answers they felt they were looking for.
· Sample was students, also small and ethnocentric therefore it cannot be generalised
­ not representative of the general population
· Counter evidence ­ Yuille & Cutshall (1986) found that postevent info may not
effect memory in reallife EWT.
Anxiety has a negative effect Deffenbacher et al (2004)
Meta analysis of 18 studies. He looked at the effects of
heightened anxiety on accuracy of eyewitness recall
and found high levels of stress negatively impacted on
the accuracy of EWT
Anxiety has a positive effect Christianson & Hubinette (1993)
Questioned 58 witnesses to real bank robberies and
found that those witnesses who had been threatened

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in some way were more accurate their recall and
remembered more detail than those who had been
onlookers and less emotionally aroused. This
continued to be true 15 months later. This shows
that emotional arousal may enhance the accuracy of
Why the contradiction?
Deffenbacher suggests it can be explained
by the YerkesDodson law (1908) which
states that accuracy is poor when arousal is
either too low or too high and better when
arousal is moderate.…read more

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Elderly ­ Yarmey (1984)
Found that when asked questions about a stage event, 80% of elderly ppts
compared to 20% of younger adults failed to mention that the attacker had a
knife in his hand
Cohen & Faulkner (1989)
Participants were shown a film of kidnapping to groups of middle aged and
elderly participants. Then they read a narrative account of the scene they
had just witnessed.…read more


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