The term ‘eye witness testimony’ refers to an area of research into the accuracy of memory concerning significant events, it is legally considered to be a reliable account of events. However, research into eye witness testimony has found that it can be affected by many psychological factors such as, anxiety and stress, reconstructive memory, selective attention and leading questions.
Anxiety and stress can be associated with many factors such as, violence and crime. Clifford and Scott (1978) found that participants who saw a film of a violent event remembered less of the information than a control group who saw a less stressful version. However, Yuile and Cutshall (1986) found that witnesses of a real event had accurate memories of what happened. The police interviewed witnesses and thirteen of them were interviewed five months later. Recall was found to be accurate, even after a long period of time. One weakness of this study was that the witnesses who experienced the highest levels of stress where actually present at the event, instead of watching second hand from a film, and this may have helped with the accuracy of their memory recall.
Selective attention is when the witness is able to describe one detail, giving them less time to pay attention to other details. It can also be because the witness is more likely to focus on a detail with more emotional significance, such as a weapon. Loftus et al. (1987) showed participants a series of slides of a customer at a restaurant. In on version the customer was holding a gun, in the other the customer held a chequebook. Participants who had been shown the version with the gun present tended to focus on the gun itself and not much else. As a result they were less likely to identify the customer as appose to those who had seen the chequebook version.
Bartlett (1932) showed that memory is not just a factual recording of what has occurred, but...