Psychology AS Eyewitness Testimonies

Overlooks Eyewitness testimoneis in Memory. 

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Eyewitness Testimonies- Leading Questions

(Evidence supplied by people who witness a specific event/crime relying on their own memory to recall)

Loftus Looks at the role of leading questions on the accuracy of EWT. 

She carried out a independent, Lab experiment to conduct an experiment. She showed 45 students series of real life traffic accidents, and then split into the participants into groups, where they had to answer a question air. The verb in the key question was changed, (How fast wsa the car going when it .... the other car). The verbs used were:

Smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted

she found that the voilent word, Smashed had a high mean speed estimate compared to the less violent verb, Contacted. 

Conclusion: Leading questions can have an affect on a persons memories.

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Evaluation Of Loftus


  • Loftus and Palmer did another experiment a week later, those given the word smashed also seemed to recollect broken class, even though there was none. 


  • It lacks Mundane Realism as the video clip will not induce the same emotional reaction as witnessing it in real life. Therefore it lacks Ecological validity. 
  • It was in a lab, making it Artificial. Also, it may have lacked Internal Validity causing Demand Characteristics.
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Anxiety On EWT

Christianson found witnesses that were threatended in bank robberies were more accurate in their recall and remembered mmore details than the onlookers. 

The Yerkes Dodson Law is explained in terms of a curvilinear relationship. 

It suggests that low arousal causes low performance

Medium arousal causes highest performance

Too much arousal causes low perfromance.

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Weapon Focus Effect

In voilent crimes, arousal may focus the witness on more central details (The weapon) rather than other detials (the persons face). 

Loftus carried out an experiment with two conditions, In both conditions participants heard a heated discussion in a room, 

In Condition 1- a man emerged holding a pen with greased hands. 

In Condition 2- a man emerged holding a paperknife with blooded hands. 

When the participants were asked to identify the man from pictures, Condition 1 was 49% accurate whereas condition 2 was 33%. This suggests participants were focused on the weapon, therefore violent crimes lead to poorer recall.

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Age of witness

Research has shown that both young and older participants had lower recall than middle age.

Research has also shown that:

  • Young people are lesss reliable as Eye Witnesses as they are less accure. 
  • Yarmey's research suggested age doesnt affect the accuracy, however older adults are less confident.
  • Memon found that the older the witness is, the poorer/less reliable the recall is. 
  • Rhodes found older participants are less accurate. 

Young children are also more evident in the courtroom, this is bad for crimes as young children are more easily influenced.

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Own Age Bias

Own age bias is whree people are more likely to recognise people of their own, or similar age. This is because people are usually surrounded by people their own age, therefore describing them and being aware of their features is easier. 

Rhodes used individuals from 3 age groups, young, medium and old. They were shown 24 pictures of people from all 3 age groups and had to rate them on attractivness. After a distractor task, They were then shown 48 pictures. (24 of which they had already seen). Findings showed that Young people recognised young people most, Middle aged recognised Middle aged the most, and Older people recognised Older people the most. 

Research has shown that own age bias occurs due to Differential experience hypothesis this means that the more time we have with an age group, the better our memoru would be for such individuals. 

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Cognitive Interview

The cognitive interview is different to the standard interview as it avoids leading questions and has 4 stages to it, rather than the standard interviews "recall what you saw". 

The cognitive interview's stages are:

  • Report everything - interviewer encourages every detail of the event, even though it may thought to be irrelevent. This is to trigger other memories and it may be important to the case.
  • Mental Reinstatement - interviewer encourages the interviewee to mentally recreate the event from the orginal context, using senses too. 
  • Change the order - Interview tries alternative ways through the timeline of the event. This is so they can check for reliablity and other memories may come to the participant).
  • Change the Perspective - The interviewee is asked to recall the incident from multiple perspectives, meaning putting themselves in other peoples places. This is because it may access different parts of the memory. 
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Evaluation of the Cognitive Interview


  • Research has found an increase of 34% in correct information. 
  • It is more effective


  • It is a collection of related techniques, therefore it is hard to evaluate. 
  • It requires a lot of time that may not always be available. Training people in the cognitive interview is also time consuming. 
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Memory Improvements

Verbal mneomics

  • Acronym - Where a word or sentence is formed from the first letters of other words. eg. ROY G BIV. for the colours of the rainbow. 
  • Acrostic - a poem or sentence where the first word in each letter is used. E.g Never Eat Shredded Wheat for NESW.
  • Rhymes - Using information in the sound of a rhyme or make a poem, I.E the alphabet is sung in the song twinkle twinkle. 
  • Chunking - dividing long strongs of information into memorable chunks. E.G telephone numbers and postcodes. 

Visual mneomics

  • Method Of Loci - using mental techniques to remember points in a long speech. e.g. rooms in a house may be linked to topics in the speech. 
  • Keyword Method - Assosiating 2 pieces of information together. E.g when trying to remember Dog and Hat. Image a dog wearing a hat. OJO's is spanish for eyes as it forms a face. 
  • Spider Diagrams - Making notes in a branched patteren. 
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very helpful thank you very much! **

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