eyewitness testimony

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Eyewitness testimony
Process of EWT
Witness encodes into LTM details. May only be partial encoding due to the rapid ness
of the event.
Retains the information ­ memories may be modified or lost
Retrieval ­ what happens during reconstruction may significantly affect accuracy
Factors influencing EWT
Anxiety Loftus study (1979)
P. exposed to one of two situations.
Situation 1
Overheard low key discussion in lab about equipment failure.
After sound of breaking glass + crashing chairs man emerges with holding pen with
grease on hands.
Situation 2
Over heard heated + hostile exchange in lab.
After breaking glass + crashing chairs man emerges holding paper knife covered with
P. given 50 photos asked to identify man who emerged from lab
P. witnessing man with pen identified person 49% of time
P. witnessing man with knife only 33% of time
Phenomenon "weapon focus" is to blame. ­ Witness concentrates on the weapon
rather then the perp.
Fear or anxiety induced by the sight of the weapon narrows focus of attention.
This gives very detailed account of the central, but less so of the peripheral.

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­ field studies get different results
() ethical issues ­ welfare of P. who were deceived. Shocking to see blood stained
Age of Witness
How much is remembered?
Inferior to adults
Amount of info that can be recalled increases with age
Inferior encoding, storage, retrieval and lack of schemas.
How accurate?
Geiselman and Padilla (1988) ­ children between 7 and 12 less accurate than adults
when reporting details of a filmed robbery.
Open ended free recall may suggest otherwise.…read more

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Older versus younger adults
More likely to choose someone from a line up even when culprit is not present.
Influenced by misleading questions.
More likely to produce false memories triggered by misleading suggestions.
Confident about correctness of false memories.
Own age bias ­ more accurate when culprit was of a similar age.
Own age bias.
Misleading information
Loftus (1974)
Method experiment 1
45 students shown clips of traffic accidents.
Asked series of questions about clip.…read more

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With more severe verb, P. were more likely to report having seen broken glass (non
Combined findings of the two show that leading information of the verb in the speed
question affects way in which the event was represented in memory.
Over time, misleading information was integrated with the original memory.
Cognitive Interview
Cognitive interview is a police technique for interviewing eyewitnesses to crime,
which encourages them to recreate the original context in order to increase the
accessibility of stored information.…read more

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Strategies for memory improvement
Verbal Mnemonics
A variety of memory improvement techniques focused on words.
1. Acronym Word or sentence formed from initial letters of others.
2. Acrostic Poem or sentence where first letter in each line forms item to be remembered, e.g.
for planets My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets.
3. Rhymes.
4. Chunking Dividing long string of info into memorable chunks.
Visual imagery Mnemonics
Use of visual images, e.g. method of loci, association with familiar objects or places.…read more


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