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"Eyewitness testimony differs from many other aspects of memory in that accuracy is of much greater importance." Consider what psychological research has told us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.

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Introduction

"Eyewitness testimony differs from many other aspects of memory in that accuracy is of much greater importance." Consider what psychological research has told us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. (18 marks) Candidate A's answer: (AO1 normal text AO2 italic text) Loftus has conducted a lot of research into eyewitness testimony (EWT). In one study (Loftus and Palmer) participants were shown clips of an automobile accident and asked to say how fast the car was travelling. Their estimate of the speed was affected by the words that had been used to describe the accident. So if the word 'smashed into' was used, the participants suggested a much faster speed than if the words 'hit each other' were used. This suggests that eyewitness reports might be affected by the way the eyewitnesses are questioned and thus influence the accuracy of participants' recall of vital information for the legal system. This finding therefore shows the unreliability of EWT. In another study by Loftus the participants were asked a question about a headlight. If the question was changed so that participants were asked about 'the' broken headlight, more of them remembered the headlight than when it was just 'a' broken headlight (in fact there was no headlight). ...read more.

Middle

These changes made the story easier to remember but nevertheless led to a distortion of the memory for the information and thus would render EWT accuracy unreliable. Bartlett's research showed that participants actively reconstructed the story to fit their existing schema, thus supporting his schema theory. In conclusion research suggests that EWT is not reliable. (Word count: 652 words) Examiner's comments: This candidate has described a number of studies in considerable detail but this was not what was required of this question. Nevertheless there is some effective selection and use of this material in terms of answering the question about the usefulness of eyewitness testimony. AO1 = 5 marks AO2 = 4 marks 9/18 = 50% Grade D "Eyewitness testimony differs from many other aspects of memory in that accuracy is of much greater importance." Consider what psychological research has told us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. (18 marks) Candidate B's answer: (AO1 normal text AO2 italic text) Research evidence abounds with studies that have demonstrated how eyewitness testimony (EWT) can be unreliable. Research has shown that memory is not a copy of what we experience but changes over time. ...read more.

Conclusion

Again research into this aspect of EWT has questioned the accuracy of EWT. For example Bruce et al concluded from their findings into the accuracy of recognizing faces portrayed in different medias (e.g. photo-fit and CCTV still pictures) that a significant number of errors are made when it comes to matching faces from different media. This throws into doubt the previous assumption that EWT that involves matching your suspect to a still from a CCTV camera is a reliable and safe technique. In conclusion it would appear from the research considered above that memory is not reliable and therefore EWT is not reliable but as EWT can have a huge effect on a person's future perhaps its use should be limited. (Word count: 628 words) Examiner's comments: The response is well organised and presents a coherent argument. There is substantial evidence that the candidate's opinion is informed by psychological evidence and this knowledge has been used effectively. The candidate has selected a good range of appropriate research findings to answer the question set and shows a good knowledge and understanding of these studies as well as a clear understanding of the implications of the findings from these studies for EWT. AO1 = 6 marks AO2 = 12 marks 18/18 = 100% Grade A ...read more.

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