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Eye-Witness Testimony Until now we have focused upon theoretical psychology that employ methods that are removed from real life

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Topic 3 - Eye-Witness Testimony Until now we have focused upon theoretical psychology that employ methods that are removed from real life. Neisser was one psychologist who criticized his fellow psychologists for concentrating too much on theoretical concepts and ignoring the practical issues involved about memory. It is memory from real life experiences that psychologists must concentrate on and one aspect of this is known as the eyewitness testimony. Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony It is without doubt that eyewitnesses to a crime are one of the most important people to the police when trying to get a conviction but we must remember that sometimes they can be un-reliable. Sometimes we cannot recall the exact events that surround the incident or sometimes it can be distorted so that details are lost or inaccurate ones added. In real life it is not necessary to precisely recall specific things in order to use them in every day life e.g. we do not need to remember exactly what a 10p piece looks like in order to use it to buy a sweet. In other words there are many areas in everyday memory that we do not need to recall exactly. Reconstructive Memory Reconstructive memory basically means what affect the event had on us rather than the precise details surrounding it. However we must remember that reminiscing on particular events can lead to them being distorted through our prior knowledge and expectations and so care must be taken in dealing with reconstructive memory. ...read more.


He did not however have an objective measure of meaningfulness. There seems little doubt that we do use stored knowledge and past experience to make sense of new information and that memories can be distorted as a result of this. However the main concerns of this theory are mentioned below * It is not clear at what stage selection, abstraction, integration and normalization occur. * The concept of a schema is too vague to be useful * It overemphasises the fallibility of memory and does not take into account that quite complex events can sometimes be remembered accurately and in precise detail. * It fails to explain how schemas are formed in the first place. * There is no explanation of how the correct schema is activated to interpret new information. Loftus' Research into Eyewitness Testimony Elizabeth Loftus is one of the leading researchers in Eyewitness testimony with her being more interested in what happens to memory after a particular event rather than before it. In a typical experiment participants are shown a film or slides depicting a car crash. In the interval before recall was asked she provided them with information that either conflicted or supported the original witnessed event. For example she showed 150 participants a film of a car crash and after split the participants into two groups who were then asked two questions about what they had seen. The first group was asked questions entirely consistent of what actually had taken place. ...read more.


recreate the context, report every detail, and recall the event in different order and changing the perspective Loftus has also been criticized for her explanations of post event information. She believes that in the light of new information old memory traces are deleted and replaced by the new false memory. Other researchers believe that the memory trace is still available even though it has been obscured by new information. Memory for Faces (face recognition) We have so far considered memory in terms of events but people are sometimes called upon to give descriptions of people involved in these events. Descriptions might include things like build, hairstyle, clothes and also the context that these people were seen in i.e. you are less likely to recognize your doctor in the swimming pool. Young and Bruce (1991) call this the "little red riding hood effect." However face recognition is viewed as un-reliable partly because of the surprise element involved when witnessing a crime and partly because the individuals are removed from the context in which they originally witnessed the crime. It seems that in most crimes the face of the perpetrator is not the focus of attention. In order to increase the accuracy in which we recall things we need greater exposure to them from different angles because our memory for familiar faces has a more 3-D quality about it. Eyewitness Summary Although it is possible under certain circumstances that people can recall certain events vividly and in accurate detail eyewitness accounts can be unreliable. It is therefore important for psychologists to investigate the reason why inaccuracies arise and to suggest ways they may improve. ...read more.

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