memory 6


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Robinson and Briggs (1997)

Showed participants a filmed event then asked them questions about it. Some questions were misleading. They found children aged 8 - 9 were more susceptible to misleading information than adults and children aged 4 - 5 were even more susceptible. Therefore adults are more reliable eye witnesses than children. Misleading questions have bigger affect on children. Children should therefore be avoided when interviewing

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Fin et al (1992)

Aim: To compare the accuracy of an amount of information about a witnessed event recalled by children and by adults, both immediately and after a delay

Method: 3 groups of p's, children age 5 -6, children aged 9 - 10 and undergraduates. All watched a presentation by a nurse on food hygiene. As the talk began there was an accident with the slide projector and an argument between the nurse and her two assisstants. The 5 minute talk followed. The next day all p's were asked to recall as much as they could of the event, including the sequence of the events, the content of the talk and what people were wearing. Interview was repeated 5 months later

Results: For immediaate recall - no difference in age groups. 5 months later children remembered significantly less than the other groups. All groups only made minor errors in accuracy

Conclusions: Childrens immediate EWT is as accurate as adults, however they may forget more over time. Problem if there are delays in getting to court

Criticisms: Children weren't watching a crime which may have accounted for the amount of information recalled - decreases ecological validity. Tye found that nearly half of 6 - 10 year olds were prepared to lie to cover up theft carried out by a close relative

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The role of anxiety on eyewitness testimony

A laboratory experiment by Loftus (1979)

Aim: To find out if anxiety during a witnessed incident affects the accuracy of later identification

Procedure: P's were exposed to one of two situations: 1. they overheard a low key discussion in a laboratory about an equipment failure. A person then emerged from the laboratory holding a pen with grease on his hands 2. they overheard a heated and hostile exchange between people in the laboratory. After the sound of breaking glass and crashing chairs, a man emerged from the laboratory holding a paper knife covered in blood. P's were given 50 photos and asked to identify the person who had come out of the laboratory

Findings: Those who had witnessed the man holding the pen identified the person 49% of the time. Those who had witnessed the man with paper knife only did 33% of the time

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The role of anxiety on eyewitness testimony

Conclusion:This finding is 'weapon focused' where the witness concentrates on the weapon and this distracts the attention from the appearance of the perpetrator. Loftus concluded that the fear of anxiety induced by the sight of a weapon narrows the focus of attention and gives rise to very accurate recall of the central details of the scene, but less accurate recall of peripheral details

Evaluation: Later research by Loftus and Burns (1982) has provided support for this finding. However it is mainly laboratory studies that produce this result. They could be accused of lacking validity, as a different picture emerges if we look at field studies of real life events. This experiment raises ethical issues about the welfare of participants who were decieved and who also may have been upset by witnessing a blood stained paper knife   

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Brewer and Treyens (1981)

Aim: To investigate the effect of schemas on memory

Procedure: 30 participants. Each asked to wait in a room for 35 seconds. The room was designed to look like an office but included some incompaitable things e.g. skull, brick, a pair of pliers. Followed by an unexpected recall test

Findings: Participants were most likely to remember typical office items but less likely to recall incompatiable ones e.g. the brick, however 8 recalled the skull. Most errors were in substitutions - false recall e.g. books, pens, telephones which have a highh schema expectancy but were not actually there

Conclusions: Participants were using schemas to ensure rapid encoding of the information avaliable to them during their 35 second wait. The skull was stored as a marker of an unusal event

Criticisms: Schema theory does not explain how schemas are aquired in the first place. Schema theory over empathises the problems, memory can sometimes be accurate

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Wells et al

Aim: To explore the strength of eyewitness testimony

Procedure: Participants were told to wait in a cubicle before the study started. A calculator was left in the cubicle. While they waited a confederate of the experimenter popped in and put the calculator in her bag. Participants were asked to identify the 'theif' from a set of 6 photos

Findings: 58% were correct. When these participants were asked to testify at a mock trial 80% were believed by the jury

Conclusion: Jury gave importance to eyewitness testimony, believeing them more often than was accurate

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Yuille and Cutshall (1986)

Provided evidence for the accuracy of testimony regrading real life events.

They interviewed 13 witnesses to a real llife shooting involving the owner of the store and an armed theif. The store owner was wounded but recovered. The theif was shot dead. Some witnesses had seen the incident close, while others more distant. The interviews showed that:

Witnesses gave impressively accurate accounts several months later

Those closest to the event provided most detail

Misleading questions had no effect on accuracy

Those who had been most distressed at the time of the shooting proved the most accurate 5 months later - it appeared that heightened arousal associated with anxiety enhanced the accuracy of EWT testimony in this case

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The role of schemas

Schemas are knowledge packages which are built up through experience of the world and enable us to make sense of familiar situations and aid the interpretation of new information

Cohen (1993) has suggested five ways in which schemas might lead to reconstructive memory:

1. We tend to ignore aspects of a scene that do not fit the currently activated schema 2.We can store the central features of an event without having to store the exact details 3. We can make sense of what we have seen by 'filling in' missing information 4. We distort memories for events to fit in with prior expectations 5. We may use schemas to provide the basis for a correct guess

This means that schemas, which are usually useful to is becasue they help us direct our attention and make our experiences more predictable, may also lead to distortions in memory

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Factors affecting accuracy of childrens eyewitness

Encoding: According to Ceci and Bruck (1993) one reason why children may be inaccurate in providing EWT is their lack of an inappropriate schema or script for the event witnessed. This makes it difficult for them to encode the event accurately

Storage: As the time between ecoding and retrieval increases, recall and recognition declines in both adults and children. It seems children's EWT is likely to suffer more than adults as the storage interval increases

Retrieval: When children are asked leading questions they are more likely than adults to give the answer inplied by the question. Leichtman and Ceci 1995 found that if 3 and 6 year old children were given repeated misleading information in questions then they eventually incorporated it into their memory

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