Outline and evaluate research into the effects of anxiety on the accuracy of eye witness testimony.
Eye witness testimonies are the evidence given in court or in police investigation by someone who has witnessed a crime or an accident. Eye witness testimonies are affected by a number of factors, but the one that I am going to focus on is anxiety. Laboratory studies and some ‘real life’ studies have generally shown impaired recall in people who have witnessed particularly distressing or anxiety induced situations. The weapon focus effect phenomenon as identified by Loftus 1979, she asked participants to sit outside a laboratory where they thought they were hearing a genuine exchange between people inside the laboratory. In the control condition, participants heard an amicable discussion about an equipment failure, a man then appeared from the room with greasy hands holding a pen. In the experimental condition, participants were subject to a hostile discussion, followed by the sound of breaking glass and overturned furniture, a man then emerged from the room holding a knife covered in blood. Loftus then supplied participants with 50 photos and asked them to identify the man who had come out of the room. She found that participants who had witnessed the peaceful discussion were more accurate in recognising the man than people who had witnessed the hostile discussion, thus suggesting that increased levels of anxiety cause a deviation in the accuracy of information recall. Loftus concluded that the anxiety elicited by the weapon narrowed the focus of attention for the participants and withdrew attention from the central features; i.e. the man’s face and physique. Deffenbacher et al 2004 found that culprits faces were identified 12% more of the time in low anxiety conditions than in high anxiety, in addition the number of details correctly recalled also increased in low anxiety conditions, thus supporting Loftus as she also found that lo anxiety...
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