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A study by Loftus and Palmer (1974) into the accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony aimed to find out if changing the wording of a question could distort ones ability to recall from memory an event.

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The accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony has been tested by many different approaches in psychological research of memory. A study by Loftus and Palmer (1974) into the accuracy of Eye Witness Testimony aimed to find out if changing the wording of a question could distort one's ability to recall from memory an event. They showed their participants a series of car crash videos before asking them to fill out a questionnaire. One of the most important questions included asking the participants what speed the cars were travelling at. They used an independent measures design to divide the participants into 5 conditions: 'Smashed', 'Collided', 'Bumped', 'Hit', 'Contacted'. The results from this experiment provide good research into accuracy of eyewitness testimony because it found that by changing the wording of a question, it significantly influenced the speeds given by the participants. For example, those in the 'smashed' condition provided the highest average of speed of 40.8mph, whilst those in the 'contacted' condition's average were merely 31.8mph. ...read more.


Similarly, contradictory evidence from Yuille and Cutshall (1986) weakens the credibility of this study. They interviewed people that had witnessed an incident where someone was shot dead and fatally injured and found that the witnesses' accounts were not influenced by the leading questions and were in fact very clear. This suggests that more intense incidents perhaps improve ability of re-call. Other psychological research into anxiety and violence tells us more about accuracy of eye witness testimony. Yerkes-Dodson Law for example believed that an increase in arousal increases performance up to a certain point, which they called optimum level. They believed that once arousal when higher or lower than this level it would affect memory performance. This is supported by Peters (1988) who found that those receiving inoculations in a clinic (an anxiety generating event) found it difficult in accurately identifying the nurse who issued their jab. One can conclude that this was due to the high levels of arousal surrounding the participant during the time of the jab. ...read more.


This suggests that one aspect of ensuring that eyewitness testimony remains accurate is to not test the child on skills that they are not fully developed in yet e.g. complex language. This is backed by a study by Ceci et al (2000) who found that children aged between 3-4 years were more influenced by leading questions. Research into memory processes shows that children may lack detail but not accuracy when it comes to re-call, which was found by Goodman and Reed (1986). Similarly, Memon et al (2003) studied the accuracy of young and older eye witnesses found that after 35 minutes there was no difference in accuracy of identification however, after 1 week, the older generation worsened significantly more than the younger generation. To conclude, there has been a great deal of research into the accuracy of eye witness testimony and this has shown that there are many things that influence someone's ability to re-call a situation accurately. Therefore, one could say that Eye witness testimony isn't the most accurate method. Top of Form Bottom of Form ...read more.

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Response to the question

This is a very concise and detailed explanation of the Loftus & Palmer study from 1974 into the reliability of eye-witness testimony, and would most likely be a question in an exam paper worth either 12, 15, or 18 marks ...

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Response to the question

This is a very concise and detailed explanation of the Loftus & Palmer study from 1974 into the reliability of eye-witness testimony, and would most likely be a question in an exam paper worth either 12, 15, or 18 marks depending on the exam board. It looks to be an AQA question, and so I will mark it out of 15.

The question presumably asks for an outline of the Loftus & Palmer study and then an evaluation. Candidates are being tested for knowledge and understanding (AO1) in "Outline" and critical evaluation (AO2) in "Evaluate", with 5 + 10 marks awarded respectively for both objectives.

The candidate's knowledge of the study is extensive, and concentrates very well in the minute details such as accurate recitations of the average speed estimates collected for the more severe and least severe verbs, and also a close attention to the purpose of the study and the conditions the candidates were put it. The answer loses some clarity by not mentioning sample sizes or sampling methods, or even that there were two very separate experiments conducted during the course of the investigation, so I would ask candidates to ensure they're just that little bit more rigorous with the information recall when it comes to the numerical information for studies (samples sizes, duration, results, etc.). As it stands, this candidate would there expect to achieve 3 out of 5 marks for AO1.

Level of analysis

The Level of Analysis is very extensive - more so than the content for AO1 - and this is a good sign. There is a slightly unbalanced balanced discussion concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the study. With perhaps another strength the evaluation would be more balanced - try something like the benefits of quantitative data (no researcher bias, easy to draw up comparisons to other such data, can be statistically analysed for Significance, etc.) or the increased reliability due to the high experimental control. Mentioning the other studied is good as it shows a more diverse range of knowledge of psychological studies, all of which are related and important to the Loftus & Palmer 1974 study. The analysis is competent and professional and retains a good level of control and accuracy over the use of psychological terminology. The candidate can hope to achieve 10 out of 10 marks for AO2, and a final score of 12/15.

Quality of writing

The Quality of Written Communication is very good. The candidate writes clearly and with a good adherence to the rules of Standard English. Most students don't consider it, but in all heavily essay-based courses (Geography, History, Philosophy & Ethics, Psychology - not just English) a need for clear and precise use of English is absolutely imperative. The candidate writes confidently, applying psychological terminology where appropriate.

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Reviewed by sydneyhopcroft 15/08/2012

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