• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
Page
  1. 1
    1
  2. 2
    2
  3. 3
    3
  4. 4
    4
  5. 5
    5
  6. 6
    6
  7. 7
    7
  8. 8
    8
  9. 9
    9
  10. 10
    10
  11. 11
    11
  12. 12
    12
  13. 13
    13
  14. 14
    14
  15. 15
    15
  16. 16
    16
  17. 17
    17
  18. 18
    18
  19. 19
    19
  20. 20
    20

Is eyewitness testimony reliable?

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

´╗┐Eyewitness Testimony as a source of reliable evidence In relation to cognitive psychology, is eyewitness testimony reliable in today?s judicial system? Word Count: 3944 ABSTRACT Is eyewitness testimony a reliable source of evidence in today?s judicial system? Many jurors tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony assuming that what they hear is exactly as it happened. They ignore the psychology behind remembering an event. Our brain is a complex structure and it is difficult to absorb every stimulus in our surrounding. We pay great attention to some aspects of a situation while completely ignoring others. It is advisable for expert psychologists to be present during a court case that involves eyewitness testimony, as they are more aware of its flaws. We store information in schemas and when we gain new knowledge it is altered in order to fit these schemas. Leading psychologists such as Elizabeth Loftus, Neil Bartlett and Yullie & Cutshall have carried out research in order to demonstrate how our memory can be altered by psychological factors such as leading questions, reconstructive memory and weapon focus. This research paper contains a vast number of experiments and studies done in order to illustrate the unreliability of our memory and whether courts should rely on eyewitness testimony as a prime source. Age and gender also serve as factors that influence eyewitness testimony. Through research and analysis, it is concluded in this paper that eyewitness testimony should not be given superiority over other actual evidence presented, as our memory is the least reliable source. It is worthwhile to carry out further investigation about the case if eyewitness testimony is the only evidence available, as false testimonies could lead to an innocent individual being charged guilty. Word Count: 260 CONTENTS Abstract ???????????????????????????????????????????.. Page 2 Introduction ????????????????????????????????????????.. Page 4 Discussion??????????????????????????????????????????. Page 7 Misleading Questions????????????????????????????????????? Page 7 Anxiety and Stress??????????????????????????????????????.. Page 9 Weapon Focus????????????????????????????????????????? Page 11 Reconstructive Memory???????????????????????????????????. ...read more.

Middle

Memory recall of a real-life situation is accurate even after a few months and the loaded questions do have as much of an effect as they do in laboratory experiments (e.g Loftus & Palmer, 1974) (Eyewitness Testimony Psychology). The above information gives a re-assurance that eyewitness testimony is not completely unreliable depending on the situation and the witness?s role in the event. There may be some situations where memory distortions take place and other situations where they do not. Whether memory distortion or reconstruction takes place or not depends on the witness?s state of mind at the time of the event. The emotional state of the individual may cloud their reason, judgment and perception; therefore it is necessary to be neutral and unbiased when witnessing a crime scene. Weapon Focus The study by Yullie and Cutshall (1986) also relates to ?weapon focus? as a psychological factor that affects eyewitness testimony. When weapons are involved the witness is less likely to remember details about the criminal but is more likely to remember the details of the weapon (Eyewitness Testimony Psychology). An experiment conducted by Johnson and Scott (1976) as cited in Loftus et al (56) illustrated this phenomenon. In the ?no weapon? condition participants overheard a mild conversation in the next room about an equipment failure, witnessed a confederate enter the room with a grease pen, watched him utter a single line and leave. In the ?weapon? condition the participants overheard a violent conversation along with crashing objects, saw a confederate enter the room with a bloodied letter opener, watched him utter a single line and then leave. Participants in both condition witnessed the target individual for four seconds. It was found that 33% of the participants in the ?bloody letter opener? condition identified the culprit correctly and 49% of the participants in the greasy pen condition identified the culprit correctly. A reduced ability to remember the confederate was associated with the presence of a weapon. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is important for jury?s to be aware of these factors before placing a verdict and should not place great reliance on factors such as confidence and vivid descriptions of details. If possible, it is advisable to find other evidence rather than eyewitness testimony. A major limitation of the research investigated is that majority of the studies done in relation to eyewitness testimony are laboratory studies. This inhibits us to generalize the data collected to the real world. An implication for future research would be to carry out more interviews with individuals who have witnessed acts of crime and violence rather than basing conclusions on laboratory studies. Also, it could be helpful to carry out research regarding a number of factors that affect eyewitness testimony (e.g. a study that compares the ability to remember events when the variables are age, gender, weapons and misleading questions). The limitation presented does not change the fact that human memory is a very personal and comparative aspect and therefore cannot be a foundation for any important decisions. It is important to know that memory changes with time and every consequent attempt to recall the event will be just another skewed interpretation of the event. Eyewitnesses can refute or support the general facts about the case but the details and their testimony should not be put superior to the actual evidence presented in court. Studies have also proven that innocent people have been accused due to eyewitness testimony, this elaborates on the unreliability of it. Our ability to recall an event is affected by the information provided after the event, the level of stress and anxiety we are at during the time of the event also affects it, the presence of weapons also distorts our memory, reconstructive memory is yet another psychological factor that makes eyewitness testimony unreliable, our expectations, age and gender also play a role when giving a testimony. All these factors should be taken into consideration when the evidence provided is eyewitness testimony. The reliability of eyewitness testimony in today?s judicial system is very low and should be analyzed in depth before reaching conclusions. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our International Baccalaureate Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related International Baccalaureate Psychology essays

  1. The effect and role of organization on memory and recall

    Meyer (1973) claimed that 'to remember is to have organized', thus emphasizing on the importance of organization in memory. A large number of studies have been carried out to investigate the effects of a variety of methods of organizing information on recall.

  2. Outline how one study demonstrates principles of the cognitive level of analysis. Bartlett ...

    The more complicated a story is, the more likely it is that elements will be forgotten or distorted because people reconstruct the past (experiences and knowledge)

  1. IB Psychology Experiment - Our aim is to determine the effect of gender on ...

    The chart below shows how many trials it takes a participant to notice the moon walking bear. We would ask them if they see the bear or not and repeat the video over and over again until they finally see the moon walking bear.

  2. Internal Assessment : Loftus and Palmer Study

    We followed all of the ethical guidelines, with no harm and unwilling participation of ach participant. Participants were all given an informed consent, and received a brief explanation and the aim of the experiment conducted. Following the experiment all of the participants were debriefed.

  1. Testing the effect of different types of music on memory.

    Sciences in either year 10 or year 11 aged between 14 and 17. However, the participants' mood or how tired they are cannot be controlled. Cultural background An attempt should be made to either get all Asian participants or either all non-Asian participants.

  2. IA stroop effect

    Macintosh OS X. APPENDICES Appendix i (a) - Informed consent form Appendix i (b) - Permission letter Appendix ii - Standardised instructions/Briefing and De-Briefing note Appendix iii - Raw data collection sheet Appendix iv - Stroop word list Appendix v - Composite raw data Appendix vi - Composite data, analysed statistically Appendix vii - Statistical calculation formulae Appendix i (a)

  1. Internal Assessment : Loftus and Palmer Study

    The five categories of students were asked this question but with a different verb. Loftus and Palmer wanted to see if the verb influenced the student's answers. Loftus and Palmer concluded this experiment stating that the research suggests that memory is easily distorted because of the questioning technique after that event that produces and effect of reconstructive memory.

  2. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah--A Psychological Analysis ...

    The group shows great concern over Saidu, repeatedly asking him if he was alright and insisting that he rest (Beah pp. 83-84). Ishmael identified himself as a ?troublesome boy?always getting into fights at school and at the river (Beah p.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work