• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

'Eyewitness testimony may be all the evidence that is available in a trial but it is notoriously unreliable.' Consider what psychological research can tell us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

'Eyewitness testimony may be all the evidence that is available in a trial but it is notoriously unreliable.' Consider what psychological research can tell us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Evidence given by eyewitnesses is seen as extremely valuable by jurors. Baddeley (1997) stated that 74% of suspects were convicted on evidence given by eyewitnesses alone. This would lead many to think that eyewitness testimonies are subject to little inaccuracy; however, vast research has highlighted many problems. One problem is misleading post-event information. Elizabeth Loftus, one of the main researchers into the accuracy of eyewitness testimonies, was interested as to how information provided after an event affected memory. As a cause of this intrigue, Loftus carried out a number of experiments. For example, in 1975 Lofts showed 150 participants a film of a car accident. After they had seen this video the participants were split into two groups. Each group were asked ten questions about what they had seen. ...read more.

Middle

or "did you see the broken headlight?" Participants asked about 'the' rather than 'a' broken headlight were twice as likely to say yes, when in fact there was no broken headlight. Therefore this shows that leading questions can alter an eyewitness' recall and in turn affect its accuracy. Loftus has also suggested that eyewitness testimonies are affected by the anxiety of the witness, stating that in an event in which a weapon is present the fear or anxiety caused by the sight of the weapon narrows their focus of attention. For instance, their recall of the physical appearance of the attacker will be less accurate and therefore should not be relied upon in court. However, there is also research to support the accuracy of eyewitnesses. For instance, blatantly incorrect information tends not to mislead people or distort their memory. Loftus (1979) proved this when she showed participants a film illustrating the theft of a red purse from a bag. ...read more.

Conclusion

They concluded that eyewitness would be far more accurate in real life as those involved would have experienced a highly stressful situation. This is also supported by Yullie and Cutshall (1986), who interviewed 13 real life witnesses to an armed robbery in Canada. The witnesses were interviewed at the time of the crime and again four months later. Despite the fact some misleading questions were used within the recall tests, their recall was very good on both occasions. This suggests that in real life situations eyewitness testimony can be very reliable, more so than in laboratory based studies. In conclusion, although eyewitness testimonies are subject to inaccuracies I feel that they are not as unreliable as Loftus' studies suggest. This is due to the fact that the participants within her studies were not emotionally affected by the incidents, or put in a highly stressful situation, thus their recall would not have been as accurate as in a real life situation. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Cognitive 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 AS and A Level Cognitive Psychology essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Measurements of Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimonies

    4 star(s)

    In October 1992, an El Al aeroplane crashed into an eleven-story apartment building, due to losing its engine after takeoff. The crash received masses of media coverage, however footage was never actually shown because the incident was never filmed. In a study about the crash by Crombag et al.

  2. Peer reviewed

    To what extent does research support the view that eyewitness testimony is unreliable?

    3 star(s)

    When considering the reliability of eyewitness testimony, it is important to bear in mind the type of crime that is being recalled. Some crimes, such as those involving violence, are associated with high levels of anxiety in victims or bystanders.

  1. Describe and Evaluate Research by E.Loftus into Eye Witness Testimony, the implications of the ...

    In 1907, Hugo Munsterberg published ?On the Witness Stand,? in which he questioned the reliability of eyewitness testimony. When Yale law professor Edwin Borchard studied 65 wrongful convictions for his pioneering 1932 book, ?Convicting the Innocent,? he found that eyewitness testimony was the leading cause of wrongful convictions.

  2. Discuss research into one factor which affects eyewitness testimony

    After 20 minutes they were all shown 15 pairs of random slides and had to select one slide from each pair, what they had seen earlier. There was a critical pair of slides, where one slide showed the red car stopped at ?Yield? sign, the other, a ?Stop? sign.

  1. Outline and evaluate the accuracy of eyewitness testimony

    giving them the results that they think they wanted; adjusting the speed to what they think the experimenter wanted to hear, as they wanted to please the experimenters.

  2. Outline and evaluate research into the effect of misleading information on the accuracy of ...

    A piece of supporting research is the Loftus and Pickrell (2003) bugs bunny study. This is where participants that had been to Disney world in the past were split into different groups and given different leaflets. One group were given a leaflet with a bugs bunny outline on, another group

  1. Discuss research that suggests that anxiety can affect the accuracy of eye witnesses.

    There is also no control over the extraneous variables, such as media coverage and whether the participants communicate to one another during the four to five months after the event. However, Peters (1988) criticised Yullie and Cutshalls experiment and agreed with Loftus?.

  2. Eye witness testimony is so unreliable that it should never be used in convicting ...

    There are two types of misleading questions. Leading questions are questions that make it probable that a participant's schema will influence them to give a desired answer. Schemas are mental 'units' of knowledge that correspond to frequently encountered people, objects or situations.

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