Eyewitness Testimony


Reconstructive Memory

Reconstructive memory is the idea that our brain fills in blanks in our memory, distorting our perception of the true event

Bartlett (1932) War of the Ghosts- we remember fragments of information that we recontruct into a meaningful whole- this study showed that there is an issue with cultural differences and memory and how long the information has to be held (court proceedings can take a long time and therefore memories may start to be reconstructed)

Carmichael et al (1932) gave ppts a list of images and different verbal cues- the verbal cues showed that memory of the picture was reconstructed into the verbal cue

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Facial Recognition

Buckout and Regan (1988) cross-race effect- we aren't very good at recognising faces from other ethncities 

Recognising unfamiliar faces outline of the face and hairstyle are important for recognising unfamiliar faces whereas internal features matter for familiar ones Ellis et al (1979)

Noses and eyebrows criminals may be right to wear balaclavas because it has been proven more difficult to recognise a face without seeing the nose and eyebrows as it's more difficult to identify the gender of the offender Roberts and Bruce (1988)

Bruce and Young (1998) suggested that we identify faces through configural processing- instead of identifying feature by feature we recognise them together- this was supported by the Thatcher effect (Thompson, 1980)

However mistakes can be made Brown et al (1977) found that it is easy for people to recognise faces but not know where they're from- this has led to many false identifications

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Attributional Biases

Attribution theory is when we explain other people's behaviour differently to our own, Heider (1958) says that we make attributions based on a single behaviour rather than what you know about that person

Internal/dispositial attribution is when you explain something based on someone's personality (this is how we normally explain other people's behaviou)

External/situational attribution is when we explain something based on the situation someone was in (this is how we usually explain our own behaviour)

Fundamental attribution error (FAE) overemphasis on the character of the person and de-emphasise the situation- e.g. if someone leaves a shop and the alarm goes off we assume that they have stolen something rather than a security tag being left on an item

Supported by Barjonet (1980) who found that people explain car accidents on the driver rather than the conditions of the road 

Actor-observer effect is when you explain your own behaviour through situational attributions but others through dispositional

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Role of Emotion

The role of emotion can effect the recall of an event because crimes can be frightening to witness- this can either improve recall because you were focussing on what was happening or reduce recall because you have tried to forget what happened

Optimum arousal the Yerkes-Dodson law says that recall is improved in times of higher arousal up to a point- but at optimum arousal recall is reduced. This suggests that recall from a moderately frightening crime would be better than that from a really terrifying crime 

Deffenbacher et al (2004) meta-analysed studies and found that recall was worse in times of high emotion

Weapon effect was coined by Loftus et al (1987) it suggests that if a weapon is at the crime scene, that tends to be the focus of a witness rather than what's actually happening 

Suppported by Johnson and Scott (1978) whilst ppts were waiting for the experiment to start in one group a man walked in with a pencil covered in grease and in the other group a man walked in with a knife covered in blood- ppts who had seen the man with the knife were less accurate when asked to identify the man 

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