Loftus and Palmer (1974) – Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction
Eyewitness Testimony is a legal term, referring to the use of eyewitnesses to give evidence in court. The accuracy of eyewitness testimony is important because the testimony can be vital to the conclusions of a jury and the outcome of court cases. However, what happens if the eyewitness believed that they are telling the truth, but really, their testimony isn’t 100% accurate?
The Innocence Project
Eyewitness misidentification is the greatest single cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. In the USA, cases of people convicted before DNA testing were reanalysed. 40 people were wrongly convicted, with eyewitness testimony bringing major evidence.
A leading question is one which, by its form or content, suggests to the witness what answer is desired. They may influence recollection.
Leading questions may be inadvertently be used by the police when interviewing witnesses after the event. Information received after an event can have a retroactive interfering effect on our recollection as later learning interferes with previous learning.
Carmichael showed participants identical pictures, but with different accompanying words. The reproduction of the images was influenced by the labels they had originally been shown with. This suggests that information is not simply saved and remembered but that memory is reconstructed.
When Air Force personnel, who knew in advance that they would be asked to estimate the speed of a vehicle, observed a car travelling at 12mph, their estimates ranged from 10–50mph. This suggests eyewitness accounts are inaccurate and unreliable.
The phrasing of questions may influence participants when asked to provide an estimate of the speed of a vehicle. Fillmore suggested that the words “smashed” and “hit” may imply different rates of speed. This may be because “smashed” is associated with a higher rate of speed and more damage than “hit”.
Loftus and Palmer aimed to measure the effects of using leading questions about a car accident. They wished to investigate whether using different verbs implying a more or less serious car accident in a question influenced estimates of speed and to see if there was a subsequent effect on the recall of damage caused by the accident.
The specific aim of Experiment One was to investigate if using different verbs to describe a collision between two cars would affect estimates of the speed they were travelling when the crash took place.
The specific aim of Experiment Two was to investigate whether leading questions simply bias a person’s response or actually alter the memory that is stored.
Forty five students participated in groups of various sizes. Seven films were shown, each depicting a traffic accident. These films were segments from driver’s education films. The length of the film segments ranged from 5 – 30 seconds. Following each film, the participants received a questionnaire asking them to “give an account of the accident you…