Eyewitness Testimony: Effects of Gender on Memory Recall

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Eyewitness Testimony: Effects of Gender on Memory Recall

Georgia College and State University

Eyewitness testimony is a frequently used tool in the judicial system. Although studies have shown that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate due to the many different factors that affect our everyday memory, this study focused on gender being a factor in memory recall. Male and female participants were shown a video of a crime that was taking place. Participants watched a video of either a male or a female committing a crime. After watching the video participants were given a series of recall tests, and evaluated on their accuracy of the event. The responses were then compared. Participants were given points based on the accuracy of their responses. Gender was also evaluated in this study. Each participant was asked to identify the sex of the criminal as well. According to previously recorded research women will be more likely to identify a female criminal, and have a higher recall of true details from the crime.

Exploring Eyewitness Testimony:
The Effects of Gender on Memory Recall

Memory is “the process involved in retaining, retrieving, and using information about stimuli, images, events, ideas, and skills after the original information is no longer present” (Goldstein 116). Memory is made up of sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory holds information for only a few seconds. Short-term memory holds 5-7 items for about 15-30 seconds. Long-term memory can hold a large capacity of information for long periods of time. Long-term memory consists of explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memory is made up of episodic and semantic memories. Episodic memory is memories based on personal experience, whereas semantic memories consist of fact and knowledge. Implicit memories consist of priming, procedural memory, and classical conditioning. Implicit memories are also known as non-declarative memory because they often times are not linked to personal experience or episodic memory (Goldstein, 2008). Memory is a tool that we use every day. It is also very fragile and can be easily manipulated. Learning to effectively use memory is very important in recall. Memory can be easily influenced by many different factors. This could cause many problems in the recall of eyewitness testimony. One issue that could lead to faulty eyewitness testimonies is the source of the information presented. In a study conducted by Dobson and Markham (1993) they explored the idea of source monitoring as a factor of inaccurate testimonies. In this study they found that witness often mistake what they actually see with prior information they have received about the event (Dobson & Markham, 1993). Individuals watched a video and were given misleading information in text form either before or after the video. Their results showed that individuals could identify the source of misinformation given from within texts, but often times found that they used the misleading textual information when giving details about the video (Dobson & Markham, 1993). Research shows that these factors can lead to false testimonies, but could the sex of the individual also play a role in the accuracy of eyewitness testimony? As mentioned earlier, episodic memory is an important component of long-term memory and plays an important role in the recall of memories. Studies show that this type of memory may not only be affected by environmental stimuli, but gender as well. In a study conducted by Agneta Herlitz and Jenny Rehnman, they explored the idea that gender plays a role in the accuracy of episodic memories (2008). According to this research women are more likely to perform better on verbal tasks, whereas men are more superior on visuospatial tasks (Herlitz & Rehnman, 2008). An example of a verbal task would be the rapid recall of words that begin with a particular letter, whereas a visuospatial task would include...
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