Discuss misleading information into the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. (12 marks)

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Discuss misleading information into the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. (12 marks)

A study by Loftus and Palmer (1974) into the accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony aimed to find out if changing the wording of a question could distort one's ability to recall from memory an event. They showed their participants a series of car crash videos before asking them to fill out a questionnaire. One of the most important questions included asking the participants what speed the cars were travelling at. They used an independent measures design to divide the participants into 5 conditions: 'Smashed', 'Collided', 'Bumped', 'Hit', 'Contacted'. 

The results from this experiment provide good research into accuracy of eyewitness testimony because it found that by changing the wording of a question, it significantly influenced the speeds given by the participants. For example, those in the 'smashed' condition provided the highest average speed of 40.8mph, whilst those in the 'contacted' condition's average were merely 31.8mph. Similarly, when called back a week later and asked if any broken glass was seen, they found that although there wasn't any present, 32% in the 'smashed' condition said they had seen broken glass. Loftus and Palmer therefore concluded that by using the word 'smash' it gives suggestions of strong impact and thus shows that leading questions have an impact on the accuracy of eyewitness' ability to re-call situations. 

The strengths from this study include providing useful insight for the police so they know that when interviewing witnesses they should be aware of the way they phrase their questions to ensure the memory of the witness isn't distorted in any way. Similarly, it shows that juries should be thoughtful before accepting the validity of a witness when listening to eye witness testimonies.

On the other hand there are also weaknesses to this study. Firstly, it lacks mundane realism and ecological validity because the film shown has less emotional impact than a real life situation would and the participants knew they were about to watch a film


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