Analyse the Studies into the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony

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Eyewitness testimony’s are a common tool used in court and is used by the jury to come to a verdict. Unfortunately, as many psychologists have proven, eyewitness testimonies are very unreliable. Memory is often defined as ‘’an internal record or representation of some prior event of experience’’(purdy, Markham , Schwartz & Gordon, 2001). Memory is on of the most important and valuable mental process and without memory we have no past because learning is lost. However, our internal record may be composed of less detail or more than the actual event or experience. In everyday life we father and store memory for later use, everything from the names of new business contacts to the location of our favorite store. During this process we accumulate vast amount of seemingly useless information e.g. what we had for dinner last night? Cognitive psychology explains learning process by gathering information and organizing it into mental schemata. Therefore, the way we select and use the information is what determines the relationship between any stimulus and response. (Karen Huffman, 2004)

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s Multi Store Model

In 1968, Atkinson and Shiffrin put forward two-stage theory of memory. They argued that we have two separate memory stores; a short-term one and a long term one. Their theory explained that the short term memory store act as a first stage for storing of longer-term memories. According to Atkinson and Shiffrin, unnecessary information that we didn’t need or try to memories goes into the short-term store and eventually the memory trace decays rapidly if it is not rehearsed. However, if the information was practiced through repetition, then that information is transferred to a long- term store. Information that an individual is particularly interested in is often unconsciously rehearsed and therefore, is remembered better. E.g. a top charts song that is played repeatedly through out the day on the radio over a period of time. Later on a third memory store was add the sensory memory, which is actually the first in the sequence. Information enters the human information processing system via a variety of channels associated with different senses. Information not immediately attended to is held briefly in a very temporary sensory buffer, making it possible to access some of it a bit later. (Nicky Hayes & Sue Orrell,1998)

Researchers and psychologists have found that memory is better recalled if the event does not involve and violence or trauma. An experiment was conducted in lowa state university, proved that participants who viewed a violent film clips had a poorer memory recall of the event than the participants who saw a non-violent film clip. (Bushman, 1998). It has been suggested that the shock of witnessing a real crime effects with the processing of information. Researchers have argued that participants in the event have more accurate recall than those who are bystanders. However, other researchers have found that involvement has no measurable effect on the accuracy of recall.(Ibid)

Level of processing

The second theory on memory is the level of processing introduced by Craik and Lockhart (1972). Their theory is that information memorized is processed at different levels, which is then relate to what is done with the material. How well the information is retained is based on how shallow or deep the processing level is. Shallow processing, process the material to be memorized at a structural level rather than a semantic level. This process consists of coding the material in terms of its psychical characteristics (sound or appearance) E.g. as whether a word is written in upper or lower case type or acoustically, whether it was a male or female voice. Deep processing involves some semantic manipulation following a deeper level of processing. E.g. answering whether the word ‘tiger’ means the same as ‘car’ as it involves you to focus on the meaning of the word; therefore, involving some semantic processing. (Nicky Hayes,1998)
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Criak and Lockharts theory on the level of processing explains why deep processing seems to influence recall relate with three factors, distinctiveness, elaborative rehearsal and maintenance rehearsal. Distinctiveness describes the extent to which a stimulus is different from one memory trace to another in the system. Elaboration measures how rich the processing is in term of meaning. Maintenance rehearsal is simple repetition, which is shallow, and elaborative rehearsal is when rehearsal explores meaning and involves deep processing. (ibid)

Atkinson and Shiffrin’s multi- store model is or focused on the structure of memory rather than the processes of ...

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