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Introduction/background
Memory is not like a camera and Elizabeth Loftus has
conducted numerous studies investigating the
accuracy of eyewitness testimony. She has been
asked on many occasions to testify in court about
the factors that affect eyewitness testimony, the
intention being to make jurors question the
accuracy of an eyewitness account.
This aim of these two experiments was to investigate
the effect of leading questions on eyewitness
accounts and also the effect that leading questions
might have on later memory for what happened.
Elizabeth Loftus…read more

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Hypothesis and Research
question
"The strength of the verb used in the leading question will have a significant
effect on participant reports of the speed of the crash."
"Do leading questions distort an eyewitness memory of an event?"…read more

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Experiment one.
Method: A laboratory experiment.
Procedure: 45 student participants watched a video of a car accident (the video
was part of a driver safety film). Afterwards the participants were asked to
write an account of what they had seen, and then given a questionnaire
which included the critical leading question.
The participants were divided into 5 groups and each group received a slightly
different version of the critical question, either containing the verb
`smashed', `collided', `bumped', `hit' or `contacted'.
Findings: The leading question did affect participants' perception of speed.…read more

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Experiment two
The first experiment found that leading questions do affect eyewitness reports,
but do they also affect the way the information is stored in memory and
later retrieved?
In another laboratory experiment, 150 student participants, in three groups of
50, were shown a film of car accident and were given a questionnaire.
Group 1 were asked the leading question containing the word `hit', group 2
were asked it with the word `smashed' and group 3 (the control group) were
not asked a leading question. A week later the participants returned and
were asked some further questions, including the critical question `Did you
see any broken glass?' (there had been no broken glass in the film).
Findings: Those participants who thought the car was travelling faster (the
`smashed' group) were more likely than the others to produce a false
memory of seeing broken glass. This suggests that their memory of what
they had seen was changed by the way they had been questioned.…read more

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Conclusion.
Loftus & Palmer concluded that the meaning of the verb used in the leading
question (the semantics of the question) had become integrated with the
memory of the event, thus changing the memory and causing a false
memory to be constructed. We can also conclude that what happens after
we have witnessed an event can alter our memory of the event.…read more

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