Loftus and Palmer

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Loftus and Palmer - Aims and Context

  • Marshall (1969) air force personnel gave very inaccurate estimates of speed, 10-50mph when actually 12
  • Fillmore (1971) using the words smashed and hit imply different rated of movement, the listerner assumes different consequences and so gives different answers
  • Bartlett (1932) The reconstructive memory: memories are organised in schemas and remembeing involveds the retrieval of information which has been unknowingly altered with compatible pre-existing knowledge 
  • Why do we forget: proactive interference, old memories disrupt new ones, retroactive interference: when new memories disrupt old memories

AIMS: to investigate whether the verbs used in a question could systematically affect a witness's answer to that question

whether the same question asked with the verb hit and smahed had consequences for a secondary question asked a week later

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Loftus and Palmer - Procedures

Experiment 1

  • 45 student participants
  • 7 film clips of different traffic accidents 
  • Asked 'about how fast were the cars going when they .......... each other?'
  • Hit, smashed, collided, bumped, contacted

Experiment 2

  • 150 student participants
  • 4 second film of multiple car crashes, asked critical question
  • Group 1, smahed, group 2 hit and 3 no question
  • Asked one week later 'did you see any broken glass' 
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Loftus and Palmer - Findings and Conclusions

Experiment 1

  • Smashed 40.8
  • Collided 39.3
  • Bumped 38.1
  • Hit 34.0
  • Contacted 31.8

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indictae that the form of a question in this case a single word can markedly and systematicallyt affect a witness' answer to that question

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Loftus and Palmer - Findings and Conclusions

Experiment 2

  • Smashed 16
  • Hit 7
  • Control 6

CONCLUSIONS: Leading questions in this case a single word can distort a witness's memory for an event and this seemingly small change had consequence for how questions are answered a week after the original event occured 

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Loftus and Palmer - Methodology

  • Design: Lab, control over extraneous variables, demand characteristics, mean scores mean that anomalies could skew results 
  • Ethics: not gain fully informed consent, as deception was trivial it is acceptable
  • Reliabilty: similar findings in other studies
  • Validity: low ecological validity, we are not often asked to estimate speed, contrived settings mean it is hard to generalise, mundane realism is lacking as in a real car accident people would be scared
  • Sample: Students have better memories than others, effects generalisability, less driving experience meaning they are more affected by leading questions, opportunity sample means bias as it is not representative 
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Loftus and Palmer - Alternative Evidence

  • Loftus and Zanni (1975) a and the broken headlight, the creates more response
  • Buckout (1980) film of purse being stolen on TV, viewers later shown an identity parade, phone in answers out of 2000 14% got it right
  • Yuille and Cutshall (1986) interviwed 13 people 4 months after an armed robbery, despite 2 misleading questions, accounts were similar to initial witness statements
  • Loftus and Pickrell (1995) planting the false memory of being lost in a mall, 20% believed this and would not accept it was false
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