AS Psychology Memory: Eye Witness Testimony

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Remembering factors affecting the reliability of EWT. Elizabeth Loftus is the main psychologist attached to EWT.

When it comes to remembering what can affect the reliability of EWT, remember AQA: (as in the exam board)

A - Anxiety: Anxiety plays a big part in the reliability of a witness.

Loftus did a study which involved participants hearing a heated argument in a room, with someone then leaving the room carrying either a pen in the first experiment, or (what appeared to be) a bloody knife in the second experiment. She found that witnesses who saw the man exit the room carrying the pen were more accurate in their recall of his face opposed to the group who saw the man exit with the knife.

She concluded this was due to the Weapons focus phenomenon. The weapons focus phenomenon states that if a weapon is involved in an event, witnesses are more likely to focus on the weapon rather than the offender's face (as naturally you would want to have this weapon in view at all times - after all, it could kill you!) , thus reducing the accuracy of the EWT.

Loftus also said that Real life events can affect EWT - if you're actively involved in a crime (e.g. you are the bank clerk held at gun point) you are going to be less reliable than a bystander, as the bystander is unlikely to be feeling the same level of stress, emotion and anxiety that the bank clerk is, therefore is more level-headed and can recall a rational account of events. However, it has been suggested that some bystanders feel the same emotions - especially if they are particularly vulnerable (e.g. children, OAP's etc.) 

Q - Questions: It has been found by Loftus that if leading questions are used in an interview, the reliability of EWT diminishes, as interviewees are likely to respond incorrectly to leading questions. E.g. 'Did you see the red?' is a leading question, as it implies a red car was present at the scene, and prompts the interviewee to answer 'Yes', whereas a question such as 'Did…


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