Outline and Evaluate Research Into the Effects of Anxiety and the Age of Witnesses on Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony (12 Marks)

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Research suggests that anxiety and the age of witnesses can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony (EWT) for a variety of reasons. The age of a witness can affect the accuracy of eye witness testimony and it is thought that as a result, EWT is often inaccurate. Research by Geiselman and Padilla (1988) found that children were less accurate when reporting events of a filmed bank robbery than adults; despite this, other research has failed to find much of a difference between adults and children, especially when free recall instead of structured interview is used. Furthermore, Children appear to be more susceptible to leading questions than adults (Goodman & Reid, 1986), and younger children are more likely to incorporate misleading information into their memories of the events if they are asked the same question repeatedly (Leichtman & Ceci, 1995). Most research into the accuracy of children’s memory has come from laboratory research, therefore it allows for precise control of variables, the experiments can be replicated for reliability and the independent variables will be carefully constructed allowing good inference of cause and effect. On the other hand, lab experiments are artificial as the setting is not typical of real life situations, therefore lacking ecological validity. It is not just the memory of children that has been tested; Anastasi & Rhodes (2006) used participants aged 18 – 78 years and found that young and middle-aged participants were more accurate at recognising photographs than older participants. Furthermore, Yarmey (1984) and Cohen & Faulkner (1988) found older people made more recall errors than younger people. Both researches suggest that the memory and therefore EWT is probably as unreliable as a child’s. It is also suggested that anxiety may affect EWT. Deffenbacher’s (1983) Inverted U theory states that at low levels of anxiety, cognitive performance (in this case memory accuracy) will be at a relatively low level, however as...
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