PSYCH230 Lecture Notes - Lecture 12: Jargon, Genetic Testing, Eyewitness Testimony
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Expert Testimony Wednesday, Nov 4, 2015
Research results are common sense: you’re not telling us anything we didn’t already know. Not
everything we discover is common sense, sometimes counterintuitive evidence. Our judgements
can be way off. Hindsight bias is a factor in a lot of things, but it makes sense, we understand
why we do this.
Overly influential: it invades the province of the jury, changes what the listeners might think,
you have a scientific aura of credibility. In the research that’s been done, many people who hear
expert testimony come away from it better informed, educated, better able to do what they’ve
come to do.
Unrealistic studies: this happens when people really don’t want to believe the results, they say
the study is unrealistic when it’s a result they really don’t like. However this is a perfectly good
criticism for a lot of valid thing. Sometime you replicate studies to see if you get the same
results, if you do the psychological process is operative. Not all studies were done with students.
Some studies have been dramatic in recreating crimes. Are we seeing something different when
it’s not students? Outside the laboratory? We find there’s a great deal of consistency, in what
people do remember.
Knowledge is limited and inexact: we don’t know everything that’s why we do the research, we
keep studying, keep testing. But there are some things that a lot of experts can look back and
say we are confident in these findings, they are consistent etc. you can shape people’s
testimony depending on how the question is worded. It’s better to ask neutral, non-emotional
questions than a narrative for children and adults. Also agree the police instruction can obscure
police line ups. Eyewitness testimony can be shaped or influenced by things they hear after the
fact, what’s in the media, what other people talk about. Eyewitness testimony- sometimes it’s
better than nothing but it’s not great. We can feel extremely confident in a memory that may in
fact not be accurate. Our attitudes and our perceptions can have an impact on our eyewitness
perception and recall. Knowing about all this will make us better able to judge.
Judgements of the person testifying- a lot of us use peripheral processes when judging the person,
instead of central processing which is how it should be done.
Credibility: we try to determine if the characteristics of the person we are listening to, who is
trying to persuade us, are they honest, and believable and trustworthy? Are they giving us
accurate information? Really important component because people do lie. This kind of
judgement matters. The problem comes in when you ask why are you making that judgement.
Are you making it on the basis of you know these people are born liars you can’t believe a word
they say? That’s not a good reason to judge someone’s credibility, because of their group and
your negative evaluation of their group, these irrelevant features, but rather relevant ones like
exactly what they are saying, the single individual person.
Similarity: we are more sympathetic to people who are similar to use, we find them more
credible. People’s whose native language is English tend be judge better, as less guilty than
people whose native language isn’t English. In the US black receive longer sentences than whites
for violent crimes. Part of this is prejudice but the process can also happen in terms of things like
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