Eye Witness Testimony

Eye Witness Testimony

Eye witness testimony

The recalled memory of a witness to a crime or incident, the witness gets up on the stand to recall details of the crime.

It includes what happended during the crime and everything that has happended between the crime and the court room appearance.

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Leading Questions

Leading questions

A question phrased in such a way that is suggests an answer, this can distort the accuracy of memory.

Loftus and Palmer: A lab experiment
Showed 45 students films of different traffic accidents and after gave them a questionnaire. There was one critical question - 'about how fast were the cars going when they ... each other?'

When they ... Hit, Collided, Smashed, Contacted and Bumped.

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Loftus and Palmer Results


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Age of witness

Age of witness

Children are more sensitive to leading questions than adults - Warren et al found children 3 to 4 were more susceptible.

Childrens ability to understand the question can influence recall.

Young children tended to recall less detailed memories.

Old people have poorer performance on eye witness testimony tests, identified their own age group the best.

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Factors affecting EWT


When we are in a state of anxiety we tend to focus on whatever is making us feel anxious, we exclude all other information.

Loftus 1979:
 Experiment to see how anxiety affected the recall of an incident.  Participants who had witnesses a man holding a pen with greasy hands could correctly identify him 49% of the time where as the participants who had witnessed a man holding a blood knife only 33% of the time - The Weapon Focus.  

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Factors affecting EWT


An unorganised package of information that stores our information about the world.

Reconstructive memories are made by combining what you rememeber with schema's, so our prejudices and stereotypes will influence what we think we have seen.


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Improving EWT

Cognitive interview technique

Context reinstatement - trying to mentally recreate an image of the situation, including feelings at the time of the incident. 

Recall from a changed perspective - trying to mentally recall the situation from different points of view. 

Recall in a reverse order - the witness is asked to recall in a different chronological order. 

Report everything - the interviewer encourages the witness to report all the details no matter how unimportant they may seem. 

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CIT Evidence

Research supporting CIT 

Geiselman et al. 

Tested the effectiveness by comparing CIT with standard police interview techniques.
89 students were shown police training videos of violent crimes.
48 hours later, they were interviewed by one of the two techniques and each interview was taped.

CIT - 41.15 items correct  

SPI - 29.4 items correct 

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