Eyewitness Testimony

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Eyewitness testimony refers to people giving evidence to a crime or accident, on the basis of recalling sensory information that they have witnessed. It is important to the law and police to gather information about an investigative incident from people’s recollection of events to try to create an understanding of what took place.

Elizabeth Loftus conducted many studies in relation to eyewitness testimony to find out the validity, reliability or lack of, when considering the evidence brought forward by a person’s memory. This research is considered to be useful to society and the law because it could lead to improvements of the way a suspect are trialled and how evidence its taken. In 1974,Loftus, along with Palmer, conducted a study called “Reconstruction of Automobile Destruction” in order to simulate participants witnessing a car crash and to see the effects of leading questions on them. The term leading questions are referring to questions that influence a person to give a particular answer. They asked participants to watch a series of few video clips of road accidents, involving a number of different cars and were then asked to describe the events that took place, like they would in a real accident and if they were a real witness. Furthermore, the participants spilt up to 5 groups of 9 (relatively small sample) where they were asked a series of specific questions about what took place in the clips, the critical question being:

Condition 1: 'About how fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?'

Condition 2: 'About how fast were the cars going when they collided into each other?'

Condition 3: 'About how fast were the cars going when they bumped into each other?'

Condition 4: 'About how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?

Condition 5: 'About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?'

The result showed that the information presented in the question systematically affected the way in which...
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