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Chapter 1

Chapter 1

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Psychology 2990A/B
Doug Hazlewood

Psych 2990a Chapter 1: Psychology and the Law The Canadian Justice System • the Canadian Justice System is composed of criminal and civil law • steps in the legal process are intensely social psychological • first impressions of the accused and of witnesses have a powerful effect on police investigators and jurors • the legal system provides a great setting to examine basic psychological processes and because of its immense importance in daily life. Eyewitness Testimony • the legal system assigns a great deal of significance to eyewitness testimony • the testimony given can be affected due to the rewards being offered for information on the case • numerous witnesses claimed that, with each trial, their initially sketchy memories had become sharper and more accurate • systematic experiments have confirmed that jurors rely heavily on eyewitness testimony when they are deciding whether someone is guilty • jurors also tend to overestimate the accuracy of eyewitnesses • Why are eye witnesses often wrong? • eyewitness identification is a form of social perception, it is subject to a number of distortions • to be an accurate eyewitness, a person must successfully complete 3 stages of memory processing: acquisition, storage, and retrieval of the events witnessed • acquisition: process whereby people notice and pay attention to information in the environment • how much time they are given to watch and the nature of the viewing condition can affect this stage • distance between the eyewitness and the suspect is also significant in determining successful acquisition • should also keep in mind that eyewitnesses of a crime are usually afraid - the more stress people are in, the worse their memory is • an eyewitness is more likely to focus on their weapon than their actual physical features (73% accuracy without weapon and drops to 31% with a weapon) • the information people notice and pay attention to is also influenced by what they expect to see • people are better at recognizing faces within their own race, a phenomenon called own-race bias • accuracy is reflected with how much contact they have had with the specific race • storage: refers to the process by which people store in memory information they have acquired from the environment • just like photos, memory fades away with age • memories cannot be altered or retouched - people can become confused about where they heard or saw something • reconstructive memory: the process whereby memories for an event become distorted by information encountered after the event has occurred • information that we obtain after witnessing an event can change our memory of an event • the way polices and judges ask questions (misleading questions) can cause a problem with source monitoring (the process whereby people try to identify the source of their memories) •retrieval: process by which people recall information stored in their memory • lineups seem to have a higher success rate than showing eyewitnesses only one person • a number of things other than the image of the person that is stored in memory can influence whether eyewitnesses will pick someone out of a lineup - even the slightest resemblance can determine the decision • when forming a line-up, the following should be remembered: • ensure that everyone resembles the witnessʼs description of the suspect • tell the witness that the person suspected of the crime may or may not be in the lineup • do not always include the suspect in an initial lineup • make sure that the person conducting the lineup does not know which person in the lineup is the suspect • present pictures of people sequentially instead of simultaneously • present witnesses with photographs of people and sound recordings of their voices • composite face programs should be avoided (facial reconstruction using computer technology) • try to minimize the time between the crime and the identification of suspects • Judging Whether Eyewitnesses Are Mistaken • pay careful attention on how confident the witness is - we tend to believe those who sound more confident • Does certainty mean accuracy? •a witnessesʼ confidence is not strongly related to their accuracy •correlation between participantʼs confidence that they had made a correct identification and the accuracy of their identification was only 0.29 • Signs of Accurate Testimony •study done on a photo lineup about a man who stole money • inaccurate participants said they used a process of elimination, comparing each face with one another • accurate participants said that the face just popped at them •subsequent studies show that people are most accurate when they make their judgment quickly - in 10 seconds or less • The Problem with Verbalization •studies show that trying to put an image into words can make memories worse •even though it would seem that writing a description of the robber would be a good memory aid and make peopleʼs identifications more accurate • Judging Whether Eyewitnesses are Lying • some witnesses can falsify their memories since there is a reward offered • confidence that you have correctly identified the lies and truths is not strongly correlated with accuracy • people with a lot of experience dealing with liars are no more accurate at detecting deception than are university students • detecting deception is a skill that can be learned and improved • Are Polygraph Machines accurate at detecting lies? •polygraph: a machine that measures people physiological responses (ie. heart rate) - a lie detector •assumption is that when people lie, they become anxious •polygraph results are only as good as the person operating and interpreting the test •research shows that even the order the questions are asked in can influence the results •false negatives - when liars are found to be telling the truth -are the most common; some studies are the other way around • since there is a huge rate of error, Canada does not allow the results of polygraph tests to be used in court •a concern is that guilty people can learn on how to beat these tests •there is still no perfect lie detection machine out there. • Can Eyewitness Testimony be improved? • two general approaches have been tried out (hy
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