Eye Witness Testimony (EWT)

An overview of EWT

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  • Created by: RC
  • Created on: 20-11-11 14:08

What is EWT?

EWT is your version of events of e.g. if you were a witness to a crime the police would ask you to explain what you saw, this would be your EWT, but there are many things which can effect the accuracy of EWT. 

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Loftus & Palmer (1974) - Experiment 1

Participants were shown a film of a multiple car crash. 

They were then asked some questions e.g. how fast do you think the cars were going when they hit?

There were several conditions, in different conditions the word 'hit' was replaced with either 'smashed', 'collided', 'bumped', or 'contacted'. 

The particpants who were in the condition with the word 'smashed' being used estimated the highest speed of an average of 41mph. 

The participants who were in the condition with the word 'contacted' being used estimated the lowest speed of an average of 32mph. 

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Loftus & Palmer (1974) - Experiment 2

The participants were put into three different groups. 

One group was given the verb 'Smashed', one group was given the verb 'hit' and the last group was a control group and was not given an indication of the vehicles speed. 

One week later the participants were asked 'Did you see any broken glass?' 

There was no broken glass in the film. 

The participants were more likely to say that there was broken glass in the 'smashed' condition compared to the other conditions. 

In conclusion we can see that leading questions can effect the accuracy of EWT. 

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How age effects the accuracy of EWT

Valentine & Coxon (1997): 

Had three groups of participants:

1. Children 

2. Young Adults 

3. Elderly People

All three groups were asked to watch a video of a kiddnapping. They were then asked some leading questions and some non-leading questions about the video. 

The Children and the Elderly People gave more incorrect answers to non-leading questions. Children were also more misled by leading questions than the Young Adults or the Elderly People.This shows that The age of a witness can effect the accuracy of EWT. 

This Study lacks ecogical validity because watching a video is not the same as seeing a kiddnapping in real life. 

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Anxiety & Weapon Focus

Small amounts of anxiety can increase the accuracy of memory, but high levels of anxiety can have a negative effect on the accuracy. When someone is witnessing a crime they are likey to have high anxiety levels and the witness is likely to focus on any weapons present. 

Loftus (1979): 

This study had an independant groups design. Participants heard a discussion in a nearby room. In one condition, a man came out of the room with a pen and grease on his hands. In the second condition, the man came out carrying a knife covered in blood. The participants were then shown 50 photographs and asked to identifiy the man. 

The participants in condition one were 49% accurate. 

The participants in conditon two were 33% accurate. 

When there are high levels of anxiety, the witness focuses on the weapon at the expense of other details. 

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Very good. Many thanks =)

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