Factors influencing eye witness testimonies

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  • Created by: Molly
  • Created on: 13-05-12 16:16

Discuss and evaluate the factors that influence eye witness testimonies

An eye witness testimony is when someone is present at the scene of a crime and recalls what they have seen with their own eyes, and they tend to be believed. Eye witnesses can be a key component into the investigation of a crime and Loftus found that jury members tend to trust eye witness reports more than fingerprint experts, even when eye witness testimonies are found to be less reliable and there is a lot of evidence suggesting that there are likely to be many wrongful convictions every year as a result of inaccurate eye witness accounts.

One factor that may influence eye witness testimonies is the idea of reconstructive memories. A reconstructive memory in an inaccurate representation of what has been witnessed and is affected by experiences before and after the event and the amount of information that is given after the crime. Loftus conducted research into eye witnesses, particularly the effect leading questions have on a person's memory. Loftus and Palmer's research in 1974 found that the way a question is worded can affect a person's memory of an event, decreasing it's accuracy. Participants were shown video clips of a car crash changed their estimated speed depending on the verb used in the question.

P - A piece of research which supports the idea of a reconstructive memory is Loftus and Zanni.
E - They found that witnesses were more likely to say “yes” to a question which suggests an answer, for example “Did you see THE broken headlight” rather than “Did you see A broken headlight” when there was in fact no broken headlight.
C - This therefore suggests post event information can alter a person's memory of an event and therefore suggesting an inaccuracy with eye witness testimonies.

P - A piece of research which criticises the idea of a reconstructive memory is Yuille and Cutshall.
E - They found that thirteen witnesses of a shooting in America had incredibly accurate memories of the event when questioned by psychologists and were completely unaffected by leading questions.
C - Therefore suggesting not everyone will be affected by leading questions and eye witness testimonies can be an accurate piece of evidence within an investigation.

P - A weakness of Loftus and Palmer's research is that it is conducted in a laboratory experiment and therefore lacks ecological validity.
E - The crimes were shown on videos and therefore the participants were likely to have less emotional impact than something happening in real life.
C - Therefore, it is unknown whether the same responses and levels of accuracy would occur in real eye witnesses.

P - Another weakness of Loftus and Palmer's research is that it is deterministic. E - For example, the study suggests all individuals will react the same towards the leading questions.
C - Whereas it is likely that some individuals will be influenced more by the leading questions and some individuals may choose to ignore the




probably a really silly question but what does the P's, E's and C's stand for? :s

Phoebe Harding


zoeB wrote:

probably a really silly question but what does the P's, E's and C's stand for? :s


E= Evaluation

C = Critisism

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