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Outline and evaluate research related to eyewitness testimony

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Outline and evaluate research related to eyewitness testimony The definition of eye witness testimony is as follows: evidence supplied by a person(s) who has witnessed a specific event or crime, relying only on their memory. Bartlett (1932) was interested in the way a message gets distorted during the game of Chinese whispers. He wanted to see whether memories changed over time as a result of prior knowledge in the form of schemas. He presented English subjects with the War of the Ghosts story, which is a North American folk tale. He executed this to produce a conflict between the story content and the participant's knowledge of the world. Bartlett's theory of Reconstructive Memory suggested that recall is subject to personal interpretation dependent on our learnt or cultural norms and values. Subjects were asked to recall the story immediately afterwards and some time later. The results showed that the story had become more and more distorted with each recall; it became more westernized. Bartlett explained that because the story was from another culture, the participants found it difficult to understand. In order to make sense of the story, they added new details to make the story fit with what they knew about their world. ...read more.


A passage was read to two groups. One group was given the title (schema) and the other was not. The participants were then required to recall as many pieces of information from the text as possible. The findings confirmed that the group that did not have the schema recalled less items, whereas the group that did, recalled many more. Further, the effect of leading questions was enquired by Loftus & Palmer (1974) and Loftus & Zanni (1975). Leading questions are directive and aimed at producing a particular response, for example, "You are willing to work every other Saturday morning aren't you?" When used in eye witness testimonies for court, they can alter what the witness remembers about an event and can easily distort a witnesses' memory by changing just one word in a question. Loftus & Palmer wanted to investigate the effects of leading questions and the accuracy of speed estimates in a car crash. The participants involved in the study were shown a film of a car crash. The participants were then asked the following questions: How fast were the cars going when they...into each other? ...read more.


Participants were shown a film of a car crash; one group of participant's was asked if they had seen a broken headlight, the second group were asked if they had seen the broken headlight. 17% of participants in the second group said they had seen the broken headlight, even though there was NO broken headlight in the film. Following research into eyewitness testimony, the Home Office has issued guidelines for police to follow when interviewing witnesses/suspects. These were based on the work of Geiselman et al (1985), who developed the cognitive interview. The cognitive interview includes, eyewitnesses being asked to mentally recreate the situation, when the crime occurred, including the environment (external state) and their mood (internal state) - context and state dependent retrieval. Being encouraged to recall everything that they can remember about the crime; recalling the crime in a different order; and lastly recalling the crime from a different perspective i.e. what do you think A could see from his/her position? To conclude these studies I have mentioned all illustrate how fragile and unreliable eyewitness testimonies can be. The importance of eyewitness testimony in court should therefore be sincerely questioned and it is essential for police to be very careful when questioning witnesses to preserve accuracy of memory and to avert injustice. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sarah Keogh ...read more.

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