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Introduction and re-constructive memory

  • Many things can affect the accuracy of EWT. It is known that the main factor of miscarriages of justice is because of false EWT. Eye witnesses swear on oath to tell the truth, but what they think they saw might not be correct.
  • Bartlett (1932) people store fragments of information and when need to recall, these pieces are contructed to a meaningful whole. Reconstruction can lead to inaccuracy as past experiences and beleifs alter the way the information is pieced together. Suggests peoples memories are shaped by how they feel, resulting in EWT not being accurate.
  • Lofus and Palmer (1974) found that leading questions can make the recall of memories inaccurate due to directing the individual to a certain answer.
  • Because of this finding, when interviewing EW, police ask standardised questions to ensure they do not indicate a certian answer is expected.
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  • Stereotypes - simplistic schemas that people have about a particular group 
  • Allport and Postman (1947) - showed participants a video of 2 men (1 white, the other black) in a subway arguing. Participants remembered the open razor being held by the black man, when it was held by the white man.
  • Shows that stereotypes can alter peoples recall - put forward in the social media that people with black skin can be violent and aggressive. 
  • However, study may not be reliable. Does not state whether the particiapnts were black of white - if they were white thay think black people are violent whereas black people may think white people are aggressive. 
  • Affect EWT as study shows that individuals make judgements on peopel because of the colour of their skin and what they previously know. Shows stererotyping can lead to inaccurate EWT as EW may not remember exactly what happened and just fill the gaps with things they think fit the best.
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Face recognition

  • EW sometimes asked to identify individuals at a crime scene. 
  • Buckhout and Regan (1988) - cross-race effect. Individuasl are poor at recognising faces from races other than their own. 
  • Ellis et al (1979) found that haristyle and outline of face wer emroe important for unfamiliar faces (when tying to identify a criminal), if these features arent right EW may make a wrong judgement. Ellis concluded that this was because features suhc as hair adn outline of face are relativley invarient, whereas internal features suhc as eyes are constantly changing.
  • Brown et al (1977) said that we may recognise an unfamiliar face but not know where we saw it.
  • Thompson (1988) stated that EW may identify faaces resembling the ones thay have seen on TV as they can confuse source and familiarity. Effect EWT as EW may identify the wrong person as commiting the crime - lead to miscarriage fo justice.
  • These icnclusions were made from lab studies. Lack in EV as variables are so closely controlled. Lead to participants acting with demand characteristics sa they know it is an experiment. Studies may not be reliable so conclusions amy not be true, leading to the statement that these factors may not effect EWT.
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Attributional biases

  • Make EW of a crime things of the suspect in a different way. E.g. EW tend to overestimate internal forces rather than assuming behaviour is inflicted by the situation (FAE)
  • Barjonet (1980) people tended to believe car accidents were caused by driver effors rather than situational factors such as driving conditions. Affect EWT as may claim that a crime was more violent and serious than it actually was as belive it is the suspects personality that is causing the behaviour.
  • Walster (1966) gave participants were given a story of a car rolling down a hill. when little damage arose participants suggested situational factors such as handbreak failure, with greater damage they made dispositional judgements suggesting the driver was at fault.
  • However, low EV as labe study - demand characteristsics.
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Role of emotion

  • Loftus et al (1978) - weapon effect - when a weapon is seen, the witness tends to focus on it rather than the criminal, making it harder to recognise the individual from a range of suspects.
  • Johnson and Scott (1978) - participants, whilst waiting for an experiement to start, were witnesses to a man carrying a knife covered in blood. others were witnesses to a man carrying a pen covered in grease. Participants in the first condition less accurate at identifying the criminal.
  • However independant groups design meaning no control of particpant variables and lots of partipcants needed.
  • Yerkes-Dawson law - performance imporves with arousal up to a point (optimum) but higher arousal reduces performance. Suggests crimes that are relatively frightening would produce the best recall but very scary incidents would lead to poor recall.
  • However Christianson and Hubinette (1993) found that witnesses to a real bank robbery who had been threatened had better recall than onlookers who were not involved.
  • However, ethics - psychological harm
  • Conclusion - various things that cann effect EWT (emotion, attributional biases, face recognition and stereotypes). Means EWT may not be as acuurate as what people think they are meaning it can lead to miscarriage of justice.
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