Eyewitness Testimony Assignment

Topics: Eyewitness identification, Witness, Emotion and memory Pages: 6 (1844 words) Published: December 15, 2012
Syma Kausar

Student ID 20237783

Assignment number


Q. Discuss the factors that influence eyewitness recall, and evaluate the evidence behind these theories.

In this assignment I aim to discuss the factors that influence eyewitness testimony and to evaluate whether it is reliable or not. I’ll be explaining a short introduction into what eye witness recall is. At the end of the assignment a conclusion to what I’ve learnt and the overall view of eyewitness recall.


Eyewitness testimony is a legal term, it is a statement given under oath which police departments widely rely on. Eye witness recall is something that happened, according to an eyewitness- basically a person who saw an incident or an event and taking it into account. Although, eyewitness is relied on frequently there is strong evidence to suggest it isn’t as reliable as we may think. Factors that can influence eye witness testimony are misleading questions, post traumatic information, emotional arousal, stress, cognitive interview, weapon focus and age. Eyewitness recall refers to false memories in psychology.

Eyewitness recall is not reliable as witnesses interpret what happened at a scene of a crime or an event. When eyewitnesses are questioned the phrasing makes a difference too. For example “was the suspect wearing a blue coat?” Witnesses are highly unlikely to remember the exact colour. A better way to question the witness would be “was the suspect wearing any distinct clothing”. This question would increase the chances of accuracy to recalling the information.

Children and the elderly tend to recall faces and information less accurately than young adults. Factors that have no effect are education, intelligence, gender and race. Memory is a factor that influences eye witness recall. As time passes after the incident has occurred it affects the memory as memory starts declining slowly and consistently. So this could reduce the level of accuracy. Attention is another important factor, to recalling information. A higher level of attention results in higher level of identification accuracy.

Factors that inhibit eyewitness recall are stress, trauma, anxiety and mood. When a person is stressed they are more likely to ignore information. Because they are under stress they may make up parts of the story to fit in what they believe they should’ve seen. High levels of anxiety can have a negative impact on recall: in a meta-analysis of studies Deffenbacher et al (2004) found that heightened emotion had led to less accurate recall by witnesses, however high levels of anxiety can have a positive impact on recall: Christianson and Hubinette (1993) questioned 110 witnesses to 22 real bank robberies and found that those who had been threatened during the raids had a more accurate recall of events.

Age- The relationship between age and recall of events is more complex than expected. It’s a general theory that the older we get the more fragile our state of mind and other functions becomes, hence making old people less reliable eyewitnesses. Evidence suggests that young children are prone to errors too. Poole and Lindsey (2001) got a group of children aged between 3-8 to watch a science demonstration, prior to that they listened to a story that had some science material in it; but also some new information. Afterwards they were questioned about the science demonstration and it was found that what they heard from the story they added information from that to the science demonstration. Younger aged group were less able to distinguish the source of information. So Poole and Lindsey concluded that young people are...
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