Aditi Handa

An investigation to analyse interaction between language and memory


The following experiment is a modification of the Loftus & Palmer experiment. This measures the difference in responses in the ‘smashed’ and ‘bumped’ condition after participants are subjected to reading a passage describing a accident. 60 participants were selected out of which 30 were male and 30 female. Equal no. of participants of each sex were subject to both the conditions. The results supported the hypothesis that the mean score in the ‘smashed’ condition will be higher than that of the ‘bumped’ condition.


Eyewitness testimony plays an important role in the criminal justice system. Many cases have been given a judgement purely on the basis of eyewitness testimony. Numerous cases of mistaken identification have led to grave concern in the society. Not only does the government have to provide huge monetary compensations but the life of the convict and his family is very severely affected. It is at such times when one wonders how important it is to go on false evidence and punish the innocent for a crime and put society at peace until finding that the convict was innocent. This led to research in the loop holes of eyewitness testimony and how they can be avoided. Kassin, Ellsworth & Smith (1989) suggested that there is a 5% chance that eyewitnesses tend to overestimate the duration of events and a 27% chance that the testimony is affected by how the questions are worded. Plenty of research was done by Loftus & Palmer but an experiment which played an important role was their study in 1974. Bird (1927) says that most people are inaccurate in reporting numerical details and the inaccuracy tends to be an overestimate. Loftus & Palmer decided to study the causes of these inaccuracies. Wording of a question plays an important role when eyewitness are questioned about a particular incident.  Loftus & Palmer used  the concept of leading questions in their study. A question that by its form or content suggests a desired answer is known as a leading question. In their study they showed videos of an accident to the subjects and questioned them on it by changing a word in the question. They used the words ‘smashed’ or ‘bumped’ or ‘hit’ or ‘collided’ or ‘contacted’. The mean estimation in ‘smashed’ condition was higher than the rest. Changes were made to their study and the following study was carried out. This was done to see whether the same effects occur when people merely read about an incident. In this study participants were asked to read a passage and answer a question asking them about the estimation of the blood alcohol content. The change made was that in the passage and the question either the word ‘smashed’ or ‘bumped’ was used. The experimental hypothesis: The mean estimation of responses will be higher in the ‘smashed’ condition than the ‘bumped’ condition.

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The investigation was by the means of an experiment using the within groups design design. In this design some participants undergo condition 1 and the rest undergo condition 2

The independent variables were the 2 conditions. The first condition was the ‘bumped’ condition and the second was the ‘smashed’ condition.

The dependent variable was the blood alcohol content.


An opportunity sample was taken from the undergraduate student population at De Montfort University. This sample consisted of 30 males and 30 females between the age group of 18-23

Apparatus & Material


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