Yuille & Cutshall (1986)
Case study of eyewitness memory of a crime.
Background: One spring afternoon in Vancouver, Canada, a theif enters a gun shop, ties up the owner and steals money and guns. The owner manages to free himself and picks up a revolver, he then goes outside to take the registration number but the theif hadn't yet got into the vehicle, and fired two shots at the owner from around 6 feet away. The owner shortly after fired all six shots from his revolver and killed the theif, he himself recovered from serious injuries. Witnesses viewed this incident from various locations - buildings, in the street, or in a car passing by.
The reason this case was chosen:
- Enough witnesses to compare accounts
- The theif was killed, and the money and weapons were recovered. There is a lot of forensic evidence to verify the witness accounts.
- The death of the theif closed the case therefore research wouldn't interfere with a police investigation.
- There were various visible elements to the scene - (car, gun) so eyewitness statements could be checked and compared.
- The witnesses could be questioned on things the police wouldn't have focused on, therefore previous questioning wouldn't intervene with the study's results.
- Record and evaluate witness accounts
- Examine issues raised by laboratory research
- Look at witness verbatim (originial) accounts in particular their accuracy and the errors that were made
Loss and distortion of memory occurs over time, the idea was to investigate the eyewitnesses accounts that were taken by a police officer immediately after the incident had taken place and compare them with interviews conducted by the researchers. Misleading questions were used in the research interviews to whether an eyewitness can be affected by distortion.
Participants: 21 participants were interviewed by the police and 13 agreed to take part in the research interviews. The others declined due to - two moving out of the area, five declined unexplained and the other was the victim (shop owner), who didn't want to relive the traumatic event.
Interview procedure: The police interviewed…