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Is eyewitness testimony reliable?

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Psychology Key Issue - Is eyewitness testimony reliable? Eyewitness testimony refers to the statement given by a witness to an event/crime. It is important because in some cases, no forensic evidence can be traced. Also, jury members may lack the ability or confidence to interpret complex forensic evidence. Jury members tend to prefer and rely on eyewitness testimony. Therefore, eye witness testimony is vital source of evidence in a court of law. This is an issue has an inaccurate eyewitness testimony can lead to the conviction of an innocent man. Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable due to interference, social prejudice, false reconstruction of the memory, along with many other factors. Eyewitnesses might have lapses in their memory of the event, and they will try to fill in those 'empty spaces' with they believe/expect to happen. ...read more.


The use of weapons and violence cause poor recall as peripheral details of events aren't recalled. An investigation was carried out by Pickel (1988) to test whether the presence of a weapon affected the ability to recall. Participants were showed a 2 minute video clip of a man walking up to a hairdresser's receptionist with either nothing in his hand, a pair of scissors, a gun, a wallet or a raw chicken. Participants where then asked what the man was doing and to recognise him from a line-up. The results showed that the unseal objects had the most deleterious effect on recall but not on line-up identification. The usualness of a weapon in a hairdressers' could explain why memory is impaired, rather than the sense of threat/danger it imposes. ...read more.


Eyewitness testimony could be improved by the use of cue-dependency. A cue is something that is present during the learning the learning phase (the event of the crime) which, reinstated when recalling, could improve as it act as a trigger for the original memory. For example, witnesses could revisit the scene or there could be a reconstruction of the event and this could help 'trigger' some more memories/details of the event. However, the reconstruction could cause retroactive interference as memories of the reconstruction event could interfere with memories of the actual event. Also, false memories may occur as it would be hard to reconstruct the event accurately. One way of avoiding of the first problem could be to the questioning at the scene which could be recorded. Nevertheless, eyewitness testimony is vital as dismissing it altogether would render some crime, such as rape, untriable. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

This is a rather odd concluding sentence - it seems truncated and leaves the essay with a rather unfinished air. It is also not explained why dismissing eye witness testimony would render rape an untriable crime. This should be addressed.
Overall, there is good selection of material but it's not being used to its best effect in this essay.
3 stars.
3 stars.

Marked by teacher Jo Wilcox 06/04/2012

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