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eyewitness testimony

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Introduction

A - Describe one laboratory study on eyewitness testimony Loftus and Palmer 1974 conducted one laboratory experiment. They aimed to investigate how information supplied after an event influences an individuals recall. The study did not just consist of one single laboratory experiment but was in fact two different groups of two different experiments. The study was an independent measures design with the dependent variable in the first experiment is the participant's speed estimate and the dependent variable in the second experiment is whether the participant believed they saw glass. In the first experiment the sample was 45 students of the University of Washington in America. They were shown seven short video clips (in a laboratory) of a traffic accident. After they has seen this they were then asked to write an account of what they had just seen and answer specific questions in the style of a questionnaire. ...read more.

Middle

Similarly to the first study the participants were asked to watch a short film clip of a car accident. Two of the conditions were asked about the speed of the cars once again using the verbs hit and smashed as before. The last group was not interrogated on the speeds of the cars. A week later participants returned and asked if they saw any broken glass when in fact there was no broken glass in the film. In the smashed condition participants saw significantly more broken glass than any other verb or change in wording. 34% saw broken glass compared to 14% who did not. This developed the claim that the wording of a question in court can indeed affect the cognition of an individual's recollection of events just by a simple change of wording. In court this can affect an eyewitnesses recall of an event and make it 100% wrong despite them being 100% confidant. ...read more.

Conclusion

With the laboratory experiment there is low ecological validity because it is set in conditions not true to real life. The participants in Loftus and Palmer were shown a video of a car crash, and we can presume that their answers would have been different if the car crash was real and staged. Naturally occurring experiments usually take part outside of the laboratory and therefore are quite high in ecological validity. One problem with quasi experiments is that they do tend to go against a lot of ethics e.g. observation often requires consent, which in many cases does not get asked in fear of the results being changed with the behaviour of the participants. With eye witness testimony it is very hard to make a experiment which is ecologically valid and ethical making the main type of study used for these, laboratory experiments. In the courtroom, experiments cannot be staged unless often in the laboratory and it is very hard to catch a crime in action and observe it. ...read more.

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