Discuss Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony.

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Discuss factors affecting the accuracy of eyewitness testimony.

There are factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony such as emotions, fundamental attribution bias, face recognition in other races, leading questions and many more. An example of the affect factors such as leading questions can have on eyewitness testimonies is the Loftus and Palmed study (1974).

It's has been proposed that we store a series of incomplete memory fragments in our mind. When we need to recall a memory we unknowingly fill in the blanks to reconstruct a memory that can be fraught with inaccuracies. Our memory is shaped by our own beliefs of what has happened in the past which may not be an accurate depiction of events. When we have a incomplete memory or are faced with something unknown to us we use our memory of past experiences to create 'schemas'. For example in Carmichael et al (1932) study they showed two groups of participants the same set of drawings but each group was given a different set of descriptions. When the participants were asked to recall a drawing, the way in which the drawing was previously described affected the drawing that was subsequently produced by the participant. This shows that the language used affected our memory and conjures up a set of expectations about the object - schemas. Such schemas alter our recollection of something and produces an inaccurate memory. Another form of reconstructive memory is stereotypes. A stereotype is when we attribute inaccurate characteristics to a group of people e.g. all blondes are dim or all youths are yobs. This could affect our memory recall when it comes to remembering an incident. For example when remembering a fight between two people we may be inclined to believe the youth was being violent went in actual fact it was an adult who was being violent.

There has been debate over whether our initial perceptions are effected by schemas or whether it is our subsequent recall that is effected. Research has shown that initial comprehension and storage are affected. However Loftus and Palmer demonstrated that the post event information (leading question) changed the original memory held for the event rather than creating a response bias. Tuckey and Brewer (2003) stereotype study showed mixed results. They found that people who were shown a video of a bank robbery recalled features that were typical stereotypes of robbers the best. For example they recalled that the robbers were male. However counter stereotype information was also well remembered for example when the belief that robbers carry guns was contradicted.

When it comes to face recognition it has been proved by Buckhout and Regan (1988) that we are poor at recognising faces from other ethnicities other then our own, this is called the cross race effect. According to Ellis et all (1979) the ease off recognising unfamiliar depends on their ethnicity. This daddy showed that when looking at unfamiliar faces the hairstyle and outline of the face are more important whereas features such as eyes matter more for the recognition of famillar faces. This is why some criminals use balaclavas to cover their facial features as it would make it harder to recognise their face at a later date. A study by Roberts and Bruce 1988 showed that masking their nose made the ability to judge gender more difficult than in the eyes or mouth were masked. Configural processing research suggests that we recognise faces in terms of the configuration of pictures rather than each individual feature.

Poor face recognition research has found supporting results that eyewitnesses are poor at identifying possible criminal faces. Buckhout (1974) staged a purse theft and conducted to lineups to test the recall of 52 witnesses -only seven correctly identified the best on both occasions. A factor that may have a negative affect on the accuracy of an eyewitness testimony is mistaken identity. We might recognise that...
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