Psychology in Court

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Social Psychology, in regards to court, has examined many areas such as accuracy of an eyewitness, testimony, interview techniques, factors which can affect police lineups, juror ability to follow a judge’s instructions, defendant characteristics, and jury size.   Studies have shown that eyewitness testimony can be crucial in criminal cases. A criminal case where an eyewitness is produced is more likely to result in a conviction. However, large scale analysis of eyewitness accuracy indicates that eyewitnesses are only about 80% accurate under good circumstances.  A person’s memory can often be influenced after the fact. That is where the misinformation effect comes into play. The misinformation act is essentially remembering false information. The types of questions asked are often a contributing factor to the distortion of a memory. Retelling an event can solidify memories whether they are actual or false. Attorneys often have their witnesses go over events repeatedly before trial, helping their witnesses seem more self-confident and assured. Juror’s often focus on the mannerisms of a witness. The more self-confident a witness is, the more their testimony is deemed creditable.

To decrease the influencing of an eyewitness’s memory, Ronald Fisher and Edward Geiselaman created a new way of interviewing. The biggest points they established were allowing the witness to tell their story uninterrupted and then to ask them open-ended questions without revealing any known facts of the case. This technique produced 50% more correct information then a traditional interview. [1]

With this new technique, named the “cognitive interview”, the overall recalling of events by an eyewitness increased, thus providing a better chance of getting a more accurate testimony.

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