Eyewitness Testimony

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  • Created by: tiacoles
  • Created on: 03-02-16 17:03

Misleading Information

Loftus and Palmer

  • Method: Experiment 1
  • Participants were shown a film of a multiple car crash. They were then asked a series of questions including 'How fast do you think the cars were going when they hit? In different conditions, the word 'hit' was replaced with 'smashed', 'collided', 'bumped' or 'contacted'
  • Results: It was seen that participants given the word 'smashed' estimated the highest speed (an average of 41 mph) and those given the word 'contacted' gave the lowest speed (an average of 32 mph) 
  • Method: Experiment 2
  • The participants were split into three groups. One group was given the verb 'smashed', another 'hit' and the third control group wasn't given any indication of the vehicle's speed. A week later, the participants were asked 'Did you see any broken glass'
  • Results: Although there was no broken glass in the film, participants were more likely to say that they'd seen broken glass in the 'smashed' condition than any other. 
  • Conclusion: Leading questions can affect the accuracy of people's memories of an event.
  • Evaluation: This has implications for questions in police interviews. This was an artificial experiment - watching a video is not as emotionally arousing as reallife event, which potentilly affects recall. In fact, a later study found that participants who thought they'd witnessed a real robbery gave a more accurate description of the robber. The experimental design might lead to demand characteristics , where the results are skewed because of the participants' expectations about the purpose of the experiment. This reduces the validity and reliability of the experiment. 

Loftus and Zanni

  • Showed participants a film of a car accident, then asked them either 'Did you see the broken headlight?' or 'Did you see broken headlight?' There was no broken headlight but 7% of those asked about broken headlight claimed they saw one, compared to 17% in the group asked about the broken headlight. So the use of the word 'the' has enough to affect the accuracy of people's memories


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