Eyewitness testimony (EWT)

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  • Created on: 11-05-14 15:59
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Eyewitness testimony is a legal term that describes eyewitnesses trying to recognise a criminal.
This often is very accurate, for several different reasons.
Accuracy of EWT
Loftus and Palmer: Leading questions
Participants shown a video of a car crash and had to estimate speed.
Speed verbs (bumped, smashed, hit, contacted, collided)
Choice of verb affected the estimated speed of car at time of collision (smashed was 40.8,
contacted was 31.8)
Misleading information:
Stop/yield sign experiment
Broken glass experiment `Did you see any broken glass?' smashed or hit verb
There was no broken glass, but 32% of smashed group said there was, and 14% of hit group
said there was....therefore the speed verb and misleading info affects what people think they
Factors that influence the accuracy of EWT
YerkesDodson law curvilinear graph that shows that low and high arousal = poor accuracy of
recall, but moderate arousal = high accuracy. This was supported by a study by Christianson,
who interviewed 58 real bank robbery eyewitnesses, and he found that those who were
threatened (e.g. had a gun pointed at them) had a far more accurate recall than just bystanders.
Weaponsfocus effect:
Loftus: Two conditions..participants hear loud conversation next door, then either a man walks in
with a pen and covered in ink, or a man walks in with a knife and covered in blood.
Those in the first condition were 49% accurate in identifying the man from 50 photos, compared
to 33% from the second condition.
Age of witness:
Yarmey: 651 adults in public places asked to recognise the women they had spoken to 2
minutes ago for 15 seconds. Young (1829) and middleaged (3044) were more confident in
their answers than older adults (4565), but there was no significant difference in the accuracy of
their recall.
Anastasi and Rhodes: participants were shown 24 photos and had to rate them for
attractiveness. When shown 48 photos later, accuracy for young (1825) and middle aged
(3545) was significantly better, but all groups were most accurate when identifying their own
age group. (the perceptual learning hypothesis says that this is because we socialise and spend
most time with people our own age)


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