Outline and evaluate the accuracy of eyewitness testimony

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Outline and evaluate the accuracy of eye witness testimony

Loftus and Palmer investigated how eye witness testimonies can be distorted. They were interested in seeing how misleading questions affected eyewitness testimony and conducted a lab experiment. In the experiment, 45 students were shown clips of traffic accidents and were then asked a question about how fast the car was going. The participants were then either given the verb hit, smashed, contacted, collided or bumped. The findings were that, the bump with smashed estimated the highest speed, while the group that were given the word contacted guessed the lowest speed, suggesting that leading questions have a huge effect on memory and the accuracy of people’s memories of an event. The independent variable was the verbs changed for each group’s critical question, and the dependant variable was the speed estimates given by participants.

Loftus and Palmer’s study shows successfully shows the negative effect misleading questions have on eye witness testimony and has many benefits, including it can provide a useful insight for the police when interviewing witnesses, as it shows the effect of using leading questions and shoes they should be aware of the way they phrase their questions to ensure the memory of the witness isn't distorted in any way.  

The experiment was fairly accurate as it was a controlled labatory experiment, meaning it can be easily replicated, as any clips used can be easily used again with another of participants, allowing another researcher to check the consistency of results. Also, because the experiment was controlled, it means there was a good control of extraneous variables, which allows a causal link to be made between the question type and the answers participants gave to the questions and therefore allowing them to conclude that it was the words used in the questions that caused the differences in recall. The experiment was an independent measures design, which is an advantage, as this experimental design means that there are no order effects. This means participants are not going to perform differently due to factors such as boredom or fatigue because of the order in which the conditions are performed, as they are only participating in one condition.

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However, the high level of control in the experiment created an artificial environment, causing the study to lack ecological validity as the task cannot be generalised to all real life incidents as it didn’t represent everyday events; participants were watching a film rather than watching a real life incident, so the film has less of an emotional impact than a real life incident would.  The students were participating in an experiment, so were expecting something to happen and might’ve been paying more attention to what was going on. Also when a watching a film the incident was likely to be far ...

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