CHAPTOR 5.docx

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30 Mar 2012
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CHAPTOR 5
EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY: THE ROLE OF MEMORY
- The concept of memory can be viewed as a process involving several stages. The encoding stage
occurs first, when you perceive and pay attention to details in your environment. The encoded
information then passes into your short-term holding facility, known as your short-term
memory. Your short-term memory has a limited capacity. Consequently, to make room for
other, new information, information in your short-term memory passes into your longer-term
holding facility, known as long-term memory. Information from long term memory can then be
accessed or retrieved as needed
- Not every piece of information will go through all the memory stages and factors can affect each
stage
- Our memory can change each time we retrieve the event; some parts of the events may be
embellished or guessed at because we cannot remember all the details
- Eyewitness memory retrieval can be broadly partitioned into either recall or recognition
memory
o Recall memory: Reporting details of a previously witnessed event or person
o Recognition memory: Determining whether a previously seen item or person is the
same as what is currently being viewed
HOW DO WE STUDY EYEWITNESS ISSUES?
- The laboratory simulation study is the most common paradigm used to study eyewitness issues
The Laboratory Simulation
- Many independent variables can be manipulated or examined; however, there are only three
general dependent variables
o Independent Variables
Estimator Variables: Variables that are present at the time of the crime and that
cannot be changed
These can include the age of the witness, the amount of lighting, the presence
of a weapon, and whether the witness was intoxicated. The criminal justice
system cannot exert control over these variables. This their effect on eyewitness
accuracy can be estimated only after the crime
System variables: variables that can be manipulated to increase (or decrease)
eyewitness accuracy
Both estimator and system variables can be manipulated in eyewitness
laboratory studies
o Dependent Variables
The three general dependent variables in eyewitness studies are:
Recall of the crime or the event/crime
Recall of the culprit, and
Recognition of the culprit
Recall of the crime or the culprit can take two formats. With open-ended recall,
also known as free narrative, witnesses are asked to either write or orally state
all they remember about the vent without the officer (or experimenter) asking
questions. With this type of recall, the witness also may be asked to describe
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the culprit. With direct question recall, witnesses are asked a series of specific
questions about the crime or the culprit.
A witness’s recall of the crime and the culprit can be examines for the following:
The amount of information reported
The type of information reported
The accuracy of information reported
As for the recognition of the culprit, the typical recognition task is a lineup
Lineup: A set of people presented to the witness, who in turn must
state whether the culprit is present and, if so, which one
A witness’s recognition response can be examined for the following:
Accuracy of decision
Types of errors made
RECALL MEMORY
- The primary goal of an officer interviewing an eyewitness is to extract from the witness a
complete and accurate report of what happened
Interviewing Eyewitnesses
- The researchers found that the officers would introduce themselves, ask the eyewitness to
report what they remembered by using an open-ended format, and they ask the witnesses a
series of direct questions to determine specific information, such as the age or the height of the
culprit. The officers usually ended the interview by asking the eyewitnesses if there was any
additional information that they could remember
- Researchers found that the police officer’s approach limited their ability to collect complete and
accurate information in a number of ways:
o First, the researchers found that police often interrupted eyewitness when they were
providing an open-ended recall report.
o Second, police questioned eyewitnesses with very short, specific questions
In doing so, a police officer might miss out on asking a relevant question that
would provide critical information
o Third, police officers tended to ask questions in a predetermined or random order that
was inconsistent with the information that witnesses were providing at the time
The Leading Question The Misinformation Effect
- The wording of a question can influence memory for the incident
- Simply introducing an inaccurate detail to witnesses could lead them to report that inaccurate
detail when questioned later.
- Misinformation effect: Phenomenon where a witness who is presented with inaccurate
information after an event will incorporate that misinformation in a subsequent recall task. Also
known as the post-event information effect.
- The misinformation effect occurs when a variety of different types of questions and
methodology are used
Explaining the Misinformation Effect
- Researchers have tried to advance or argue against these three general positions; each position
has different implications for memory:
o Misinformation acceptance hypothesis: Explanation for the misinformation effect
where the incorrect information is provided because the witness guesses what the
officer or experimenter wants the response to be
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