Eyewitness testimony: Misleading information

  • AO1: 
  • Leading questions:
  • Procedure - Loftus and Palmer arranged for 45 students to watch a film clip of car accidents and then answer questions about the speed of the car in the accident. In the critical question (a leading question) participants were asked to describe how fast the cars were travelling: 'About how fast were the cars travelling when they hit eachother?'. This is a leading question because the verb 'hit' suggests the speed the cars were going. There were 5 groups of participants, each were given a different verb in their question, ranging from contacted, bumped, collided and smashed. 
  • Findings - The verb 'contacted' resulted in a mean speed of 31.8mph, the verb 'smashed' resulted in the mean speed of 4omph. Therefore the leading question biased the eyewitness recall of the event. 
  • Leading questions effect EWT because the response-bias explanation suggests that the working of a question has no enduring effect on an eyewitness' memory of an event, but infliences the kind of answer given. Substitution explanation suggests that wording of a question does effect the eyewitness' memory; it interferes with its origional memory, distorting its accuracy. 
  • Post-event discussion:
  • When co-witnesses discuss a crime, they mix (mis)information from other witnesses with their own memories. Witnesses go along with with eachother to win social approval or because they believe the other witnesses are right. 
  • Gabbert et al studied participants in pairs. They watched a video of the same crime, but filmed from different angles, meaning they could both see different things. Both participants then discussed what they had seen on the video before individually completing a test

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