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Eye Witness Testimony

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Introduction

EYE WITNESS TESTIMONY The language used by the police when interviewing witnesses and barristers during a trial may influence answers given by witnesses, this language may affect initial perception and subsequent recall. Both of these effects are shown in the study by Loftus & Palmer {1974). My experiment into this field showed the leading question with the `verb` contained the information about what the answer should be, thus language can have a distorting effect on EWT, which can lead to inaccurate accounts of the witnessed account. This was most certainly true in the study carried out, most participants gave a higher estimation of speed when the word in the critical question was changed from bumped to crashed, although a small number of participants were unable to estimate any speed at all. ...read more.

Middle

With this approach the witness is asked to recall details of the incident in various different orders and to recall everything they remember whether they feel it is relevant or not, recall the event from a different perspective, such as that of another witness. Before the nineties, questioning was done very much on `critical questioning sometimes oppressive questioning which could produce unsafe information thus sometimes leading to false arrest and imprisonment, it was realised from previous studies into this field things had to change. Today the police have different policies, interviews are based on single questions and open replies and the technique changed on the advent of tape recorded interviews and change of style. Serving Police Officers have voiced only one disadvantage of this type of interview in that it can be time consuming. ...read more.

Conclusion

A very confident witness tends to be more believed in EWT though there is no evidence that it is more accurate. EWT is less accurate if the witness is from a different ethnic group to the person seen, say committing a crime. Witnesses often remember more details of the crime than the criminal, reconstructing the crime will often jog their memories of the criminal. When considering interview techniques witnesses should be asked to free recall and avoid being asked leading questions, avoid encouraging guessing, as it may consolidate a false memory. Evidence from EWT is not enough on its own and needs to be backed up with other kinds of evidence such as forensic or medical. A study by Yuille & Cutshall {1986} studied witnesses who had seen real crimes; they were accurate in recalling main events but could be misled by questions about peripheral incidents. People in general, but police officers in particular, could benefit from training in EWT and some knowledge of associated biases. ...read more.

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