Eyewitness testimony notes PY4 WJEC REVISION

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Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
Jasmine Wilson
The Question: Describe and/or critically evaluate the factors affecting
the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.
*angle of attack* is eyewitness testimony always accurate?
Eyewitness are asked in a number of ways to provide information on a crime (police interviews,
identity parades etc.), therefore it's important that this information is as accurate as possible.
Reconstructive Memory
Recall is an active rebuilding of information based on expectations,
people cannot possible remember everything at once = gaps in
memories (Bartlett). This can lead to inaccuracy and people aren't
aware this happens (known as reconstructive memory) e.g. Loftus and
They found that stronger words like `smash' reported higher speeds
showing that memory can be altered by leading questions.
Stereotypes affect our recall e.g. Allport and Postman showed that
participants mistakenly recalled a black man holding a weapon
Attributional Bias
People make dispositional (internal) or situational (external) attributions
Eyewitnesses often commit fundamental attribution errors, emphasising dispositional (e.g. a
`criminal nature') over circumstances ­ use the example of an ANGRY
The fundamental attribution error (FAE) means we often make situational
attributions for our own behaviour, dispositional for others ­ what Lerner
calls the `just world hypothesis' (people believe the world is a safe place
and people get what they deserve)

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Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
Jasmine Wilson
The Role of Emotion
The frightening nature of crimes could
Improve recall - flashbulb memory ­ Brown and Kulik,
happens during something emotional
Reduce recall ­ distracting them
The Yerkes-Dodson law suggests that moderately frightening
crimes should produce the best recall (studies show we
perform best at medium stress levels)
The Weapon Effect suggests a weapon draws attention, so
less is paid to the criminal. Loftus et al ­
showed film or customer with either gun/cheque.…read more


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