Memory and Eyewitness Testimony

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  • Created on: 09-02-14 12:30
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Eyewitness testimony
Reconstructive memory theory Bartlett
Reconstructive: the active process of retrieving memory from stores
We try to reconstruct memories on the basis of what we think probably happened, what
usually happens and what must have happened
we use our schemas to reconstruct memories of experience
schema: a store of all our previous experiences and expectations about an event
e.g. a car crash = broken blood
Therefore: recollections might be inaccurate as the brain may not detect any abnormal things
about the event and/or make up things from the schema
Misleading information
Loftus and Palmer (1974) Reconstruction of automobile destruction
Aim: to see whether memory could be influenced by the type of questions people were asked
Experiment 1: 45 students 5 groups of 9 watched a video of a car accident
all participants were asked: `about how fast were the cars going when they each
each group were given a different verb:
Findings: `smash' drew the fastest estimated speed, whereas `collided' drew the smallest
Conclusion: the word used could influence two things
1. distortion: alteration of memory
2. responsebias = the word suggested a speed of some kind that influenced their judgement
Experiment 2: 150 students 3 groups watched a similar video
Group 1. `How fast were the cars going when they `hit' each other?'
Group 2. `How fast were the cars going when they `smashed' each other?'
Group 3. Control
1 week later they were all asked: `did you see any broken glass?' (there wasn't any)
Findings: in all groups more people said they didn't see broken glass but `smashed' had the
most people saying `yes' `control' had the most saying `no'
conclusion: memory reconstruction is affected by the external information which is the terms
used for the question on the speed of the car
overall conclusion: an eye witness' memory of an event can be affect by information taken in
after in the event

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AO2: In a reallife car accident the EWT might be more accurate than during a lab
experiment (which questions the ecological validity) because:
1. there is more stimuli for you to store in your memory e.g. sound, smell, etc.
2.…read more

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Deffenbacher (2004)
metaanalysis of 18 studies showing that anxiety has a negative impact on the accuracy of
however, a few of the studies showed that anxiety may actually also enhance the accuracy
Peters (1988)
study in health clinic where people were receiving inoculations (causing anxiety)
participants met the nurse and a researcher for brief but equal amounts of time
1 week later: participants asked to identify the nurse and researcher from photos
findings: the researcher was recognised more accurately than the nurse
conclusion: anxiety…read more

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AO2: a laboratory experiment all other variables are highly controlled e.g.…read more

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Saywitz (1987)
asked children to listen to a crime recorded on tape then recall the incident and then repeat
this after 5 days
found that the recall of the youngest children was less detailed but just as accurate
Elderly people
Cohen and Falkner (1989)
young adults (35) and elderly (70) shown a silentfilmclip of a kidnapping 10 minutes later
they were given a description of the crime 1 accurate and 1 inaccurate then tested for their
memory of the event later on
findings: elderly were…read more


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