Eyewitness Testimonies: False Memory Analysis

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From a cognitive level of analysis child eyewitness testimonies can be reliable and credible because children are less suggestible to the formation of false memories according to the Fuzzy Trace Theory. Suggestibility is the degree to which encoding, storage and retrieval of information when reporting events is manipulated by internal or external factors (Bruck & Ceci, 1997). False memories are a recollection of an event that has not actually occurred. On the other hand child eyewitness testimonies can be unreliable and incredible because children may be more prone to the suggestive influences of leading questions when being interviewed to testify.

On one hand empirical research suggests that a child’s eyewitness testimony can be considered
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In a study carried out by Brainerd and Reyna in 2007, first, fifth and ninth grade students were presented a list of words called the ‘study list’ (as cited in Association for Psychological Science, 2007). Many of the words from the ‘study list’ were related to each other, by belonging to certain categories such as animals or furniture, whilst there were other words, which were unrelated ‘filler’ words. After a short break, the students were presented with a new ‘test list’, which was composed of study list words, new words belonging to the aforementioned categories, and new distracter words that were unrelated to the study list. Then students were asked to identify if they had previously heard the word from the ‘test list’ in the ‘study list’. Brainerd and Reyna found that if the ‘test list’ had words of semantic relation to the ‘study list’, older students are more likely to assert that they have heard it before. In conclusion younger children are unable to connect the meaning of words or events compared to adults or adolescents. Furthermore older children and adults are more suggestible to the formation of false memories as they are more vulnerable to making semantic relation memory

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