Human Ram How reliable is Eyewitness Testimony

This essays makes an attempt to reach a final result regarding eyewitness testimonies and the level of its stability. This was done by discovering factors in three different techniques periods. The acquisition stage is the time where the see experiences the function. The retention stage is the time between the time the event ends and enough time the witness are requested a recount or questioned about the function. The retrieval level is the period where the witness is providing information using their company recall.

During the acquisition level, research regarding publicity time, estimation of factors concerning the event (for example, time), assault of the event, weapon focus and see' stress was analysed. During the retention stage, research regarding post-event information, introduction of conflicting information and advantages of misleading information was analysed. During the retrieval level, research regarding method of questioning, leading questions and a research study of an actual event was analysed.

Experiments and case studies regarding these factors were then evaluated to think about the impact that this had on eyewitness testimony. In conclusion, it was found that experiments regarding eyewitness testimony keep little evidence to aid its reliability but there's also some studies that dispute this. Thus, it was figured it is reliable only to a small extent though it could be highly correct under certain conditions. Applications of the conclusion includes jurors being more aware of the factors regarding eyewitness testimony and taking into account when choosing a verdict especially if the main proof is based only on eyewitness recounts.

Eyewitness testimony is usually a verbal account distributed by a person who has experienced an event, typically of a criminal offense. Eyewitness testimony depends heavily on the ability of the individual's to effectively recount the function. In a very trial, the jury is most often persuaded due to the statement(s) of the witnesses. Also, where little material proof can be collected, eyewitnesses are the focus for attaining a verdict. It has been argued that because testimonies are basically based on fallible memory which is often influenced by a variety of factors, it should not be depended upon. The contention of this essay is to identify and evaluate the extent of precision of this lay claim by identifying and evaluating factors that impact memory space and by critiquing experiments and case studies to reach a conclusion on this matter. Memory and so eye-witness reliability is becoming an issue worth focusing on due to the raised percentage of errors in determining and prosecuting accused individuals. Thus, the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimonies and impact on studies should be analyzed.

Memory is thought as a "kind of repository in which facts (information) may be maintained over some time frame" (Loftus, 1979). Based on the Atkinson and Shiffrin model of memory storage (1971), memory is made up of three different types of information stores, each with different duration, capacity and function. The first is Sensory Memory. This type of store lasts for the spilt second when individuals gather information using their sensory systems and preserves information in its original sensory form. The sense organs are limited in their potential to store information about the world in an unprocessed method for more than a second. Thus, information is filtered through or chosen by attention for even more memory processing in to the next kind of memory store. This process of experiencing and filtering information is called acquisition. Another memory space store is Short-term recollection allows individuals to sustain information long enough to be utilized and lasts approximately between 15 to 30 secs. Miller (1956, cited in Weiten, 2005) suggested that Short-term Memory possessed a capacity of about 7 chunks of information. If certain actions are completed, the information will be transferred to the last type of storage store, Long-term Ram. Long-term Ram provides retention of information which can carry on between minutes to a lifetime and has a limitless capacity. The procedure of information deposited in the short-term and long-term memory space store is named retention. Information is constantly being moved between these stores. When witnesses are asked to provide recount of what they observed, information is extracted from the long-term ram store which process is called retrieval.

Events during these three functions may affect the grade of the eyewitness testimony. During the acquisition process information may not have been identified to begin with, information may be forgotten or interfered through the retention process or information may be inaccessible during questioning or during the retrieval process.

Analysis of Factors which may impact Eye-witness Testimony through the Acquisition Process

During the acquisition process, there are a number of factors that make a difference an eyewitness' report of an event such as visibility time or stress. This is divided into event factors and witness factors. This section of the article will measure the effect of these factors on the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

Exposure time to the function or subject of focus is an event factor. Laughery et al (1971, cited in Loftus, 1979) tested subjects on the recall based on the exposure a chance to a picture, confirmed one at a time of different positions of your human face. Two Caucasian male target faces were used, one with fair-colored mane and tone with spectacles and another with a darker-colored scalp and tone without spectacles. The independent variable is the time the subjects viewed the pictures, which ranged from ten seconds to thirty-two moments. The things were them asked, roughly eight minutes after contact with identify the prospective within some 150 slides of individual encounters. The dependant variable is the reliability of the themes' recall. Fifty-eight percentof the subject matter who viewed the pictures for thirty-two secs correctly identified the prospective but only forty-seven percent of the topics who looked at the pictures for ten mere seconds correctly identified the mark. This shows that the additional time a witness has to view the mark, the more exact their recall will be. This research is significant as it is very scientific and specifically tested a particular variable that impacts ram and recall. Although this is so, it was also conducted within an artificial environment and thus, has low ecological validity. The research could also contain ethnic and gender bias as it only analyzed for Caucasian men as the mark. Thus, its request to focuses on of different civilizations or gender is doubtful.

Estimating factors such as time, rate or distance is often asked of eyewitnesses. This calls for perceiving the function and accurately inferring information from it. Marshall's (1966, cited in Loftus, 1979) experiment tested things' estimation of time. 500 and ninety-one content watched a forty-two second film and a week after they had given their written and oral reports of the event, they were questioned regarding the duration of the function. On average, subjects gave an estimation around ninety moments. The results show that witnesses can inaccurately estimate certain factors of an event. Although the results are significant, the analysis was conducted in a controlled environment which gives it little ecological validity. To help expand assess the reliability of this review, an additional research that can be considered is Buckhout et al. (1975, cited in Loftus, 1979)'s research on the effects if eyewitness testimony in a real situation by staging an assault where a university student attacked a professor before 141 witnesses. The attack lasted for thirty-four mere seconds however when interviewed down the road, the average estimation of the length of time of the function was eighty-one a few moments, almost twice the genuine time. This research helps' Marshall's research which shows that there surely is a propensity for witnesses to overestimate the duration in an event. That is significant in most cases, especially for situations of self-defense where the time taken between the assault and the retaliation is very significant in the categorization of the action.

Another event factor is the assault of the event. A research done by Clifford and Scott (1978, cited in Loftus, 1979) investigated the power of eyewitnesses to understand violent and non-violent happenings. Forty-eight themes with equal number of women and men watched either one of two tapes. In the non-violent version, the characters were involved in a verbal exchange and weakened restraining movements. In the violent version, one of the individuals physically assaults another personality. In an effort to be even, the start and end of the tapes were manipulated to be indistinguishable. It was found that irrespective of gender, the level of recall is significantly lower for individuals who viewed a lot more violent tape. It really is inferred that this is because of the greater amount of stress that is produced in reaction to the violent event. This implies that eyewitness testimony of any violent event should be considered with the possibility of an increased rate of inaccuracy. Although results are significant due to the high reliability of the medical method used, it also lacks ecological validity as it was conducted in an artificial environment where witnesses do not actually go through the event.

An event factor that is linked to the see factor, stress, is tool emphasis. Easterbrook (1959) found that under high stress, individuals have a tendency to concentrate more over a few features of their environment and less focus on other features. Tool focus is in which a crime sufferer is faced with an assailant who is brandishing a weapon. This rises the strain degree of the crime victim and thus, they will only concentrate on a few features, mainly the tool and can have trouble recollecting other factors such as the assailant's features. Loftus et al (1987) tested this with an test where thirty-six students were exhibited a series of slides which confirmed one of two scenarios at an easy food restaurant. Half the subjects found a customer directing a weapon at the cashier as the other half, the control group observed a customer handing the cashier a check. An integral part of the experiment examined the storage of the students based on some seven questions on the customer. It was discovered that the amount of exactness of the weapon group was fifty-six percent while the level of accuracy for the control group was sixty-seven percent. As the results show that the precision degree of the tool group is lower than the control group, this is highly significant in displaying that eye-witnesses acquisition process might be significantly hampered by the existence of a tool. The results of the test are highly valid as it was conducted in a controlled environment which allowed a primary 'cause and impact' final result. While this is so, the members did not go through the event and thus their response may be different to an actual witness meaning the test lacks ecological validity.

During a meeting, stress is a witness factor that needs to be taken into account. This identifies the level of stress or dread that a witness experiences which might influence their perception through the acquisition procedure for the event. A simulated research study done by Berkun (1962, cited in Loftus, 1979) positioned army recruits in a nerve-racking situation. They were isolated apart from a telephone website link. Then, these were told that they were in danger to induce stress and anxiety and were required to repair a shattered radio by following a series of complicated instructions. It was discovered that the higher level of panic impaired performance of the content. As this case study was conducted during a amount of different ethical benchmarks than today, there are honest implications to be looked at. Nevertheless, the results of this research study significantly support the Yerkes-Dodson legislation (1908, cited in Green) which states that mental arousal facilitates learning and performance up to point after which there is a decrement. This can be put on eyewitnesses who experience stress. Their senses may be activated but after a point, their acquisition process will be negatively influenced. Although this is so, this case study has only looked at male troops, thus when put on the general society, it lacks ecological validity.

Analysis of Factors that may impact Eye-witness Testimony during the Retention Process

Eye-witnesses are being analyzed on their retention of information using their company Long-term Storage area. Because retained information and therefore, memory has been transferred between recollection stores, it is possible that it could be influenced, enhanced or even distorted during or among transfers. This portion of the essay will give attention to the numerous researches which have been completed to research the accuracy of this or the amount of the influence that may occur.

After an event occurs, sometimes witnesses discuss what they observed with each other and the info that is exchanged can result in an advancement of memory by means of adjustment or addition. An test was conducted by Loftus (1975) using one hundred and fifty members. They were showed a film of an automobile crash where a car didn't stop at an end sign and converted right to enter in traffic, triggering a five-car collision. Following the film which lasted for under a minute, individuals were asked some ten questions. Fifty percent of the individuals were asked about the stop sign in the first question as the other half were asked about the right convert. All other questions were the same. The unbiased variable this is actually the first question and the dependant variable is the last question which asked participants if they appreciated seeing a stop sign. Loftus found that there was an increased percentage of participants who recalled witnessing a stop signal if the first question related to an end signal than the control group, fifty-three percent and thirty-five percent respectively. This shows that by mentioning an object, there is a higher chance of it being recalled. The results are highly significant as it was calculated using correct results with a specific variable tested. It could be argued that the test lacks ecological validity as it was conducted within an man-made environment but this allowed a specific adjustable to be examined which could have been impossible with a case study. As confirmed by this experiment, eye-witnesses' memory may be affected by post-event information that they get and therefore, the more info that the see is exposed to following the event, the higher the chance that their storage might be jeopardized.

A adjustment to the prior variable is the question in regards to what happens whenever a witness learns new information which differs from what they experienced. Loftus (1975) conducted an experiment where forty participants were shown a three-minute training video which involved several eight demonstrators noisily interrupting a lecture. The participants then was required to answer a series of twenty questions. All the questions for the members were identical except for one. Fifty percent of the participants were asked, "Was the leader of the twelve demonstrators who inserted the class a guy?" and the spouse were asked, "Was the first choice of the four demonstrators who entered the class a guy?" All questions had to be solved with a yes or no. Seven days later, participants had to answer another set of questions. The critical question was "Just how many demonstrators did the thing is that enter the classroom?" It had been found that members who previously answered the question with the word 'twelve' reported typically 8. 9 demonstrators as the spouse reported typically 6. 4 demonstrators. It could be argued that test lacks ecological validity as it was conducted within an artificial environment and this participants only seen the function and didn't actually witness it. The results may not be fully applicable to the general society. Although this is so, the manipulated environment showed a direct cause and effect of a specific variable. The results of the experiment can be employed to eye-witness testimony where witnesses may be mislead in their testimony as their storage might be affected by the release of conflicting information.

Similar to the experiment above can be an test conducted by Loftus and Zanni (1975, cited in Hill, 1998) which was an adjustment of the initial Loftus and Palmer research. The purpose of the experiment was to research the result of adding post event home elevators memory. Individuals were shown a film of a vehicle accident after which they had to answer a series of questions. 50 % of the members were necessary to answer, "Did you start to see the damaged headlight" which implied that there was a busted headlight as the other half were asked, "Did you visit a busted headlight" which only required participants to recall if it was there. It had been found that 50 percent of the participants, who had been asked using the word "the", incorrectly reported viewing a damaged headlight. As the majority of the other parameters were controlled in the test, and only a specific variable was altered, the results symbolize that storage can be revised by post event information. It could be argued that the members did not go through the incident and thus the test lacks ecological validity when applied to genuine witnesses but as a specific variable was reviewed, it could be concluded that the reason and result was to a huge extent connected. This experiment shows that eyewitnesses may be influenced by post event information which may negatively have an impact on their accounts.

McCloskey and Zaragaza (1985) also conducted tests concerning the effect of misleading post event home elevators participants. After seeing a series of slides depicting a meeting, individuals received a narrative of the event. Individuals in the mislead condition will get a narration with have the narrative with misleading information about a detail of the event, a hammer was referred to as a screwdriver instead as the control group weren't provided information on the specific event. Participants then needed to answer some questions about the function. The critical question concerning the tool had the initial item as an option (hammer) and a new item (wrench). It was found that reliability for the control group was seventy-five percent and seventy-two percent for the mislead condition group. The actual fact that there is little difference between your two groups points to the theory that deceptive post event information does not distort ram of an event. This experiment facilitates the validity of eyewitness testimony and due to the controlled setting up; the results are highly valid though it lacks ecological validity.

Analysis of Factors that may have an impact on Eye-witness Testimony during the Retrieval Process

Most facts from eyewitnesses are a result of their accounts of the event. This calls for the retrieval process of information from their long term storage store. This section of the essay aspires to analyse and evaluate research conducted with regards to the techniques of retrieving information from eyewitnesses such as question wording or approach to questioning. That is to evaluate the level of influence of such techniques on the consistency of eyewitness accounts and in relation, memory.

The approach to questioning during the retrieval process takes on an important role in the accuracy of eye-witness testimony as looked into by Lipton (1977, cited in Wells, 1978). Lipton conducted an experiment where participants viewed a film of any murder in a courtroom environment. He found that unstructured testimony which allowed free recall led to ninety-one percent accuracy and reliability. This is a significant value when compared with other styles of questioning such as available ended questions with eighty-three percent reliability, leading questions with seventy-two percent accuracy and reliability and multiple choice questions with fifty-six percent exactness. These results show that the sort of questioning that the see is put through affects the correctness of these recount. When applied to trial testimonies, jurors should take into account the sort of questioning to predict or get an idea of the amount of reliability of the testimony. Though conclusive to a certain extent, the experiment lacks ecological validity as the members didn't actually go through the event, merely understand it but as this can be a managed environment, the dependability of the cause and impact factors is high.

Loftus and Palmer (1974 cited in Hill, 1998) carried out an experiment to research the effect of leading questions on the accuracy and reliability of members in recalling a car crash. Fourty-five individuals were sectioned off into seven groups and each group watched a video of traffic accidents. The videos lasted from five to thirty seconds. After enjoying the video, members had to give an account of what they had just seen. The unbiased variable is the question "About how exactly fast were the vehicles heading when they strike each other?". The term 'reach' is replaced with what 'smashed', 'contacted', 'bumped' and 'collided' for different groupings. The members answer as to the estimate of the cars' velocity is the dependant adjustable. Loftus and Palmer found that the mean estimation of speed to get more detailed ambitious words such as 'smashed' is higher than less ambitious words such as 'contacted'. The email address details are highly significant, p<0. 005 regarding to research by variance of the data. This indicates that there surely is an effect of the wording used on the speed estimates. This experiment supports the theory that eye-witness testimony can indeed be flawed or manipulated by recounts under questioning such as an account of an occurrence from an eye-witness with a officer. However, criticism of this experiment is directed at its ecological validity. As the experiment was conducted in a managed lab environment and the automobile crash was only seen, not experienced, the use of the results of the experiment is questionable when put on real-life situations.

Contending the results of the test is Yuille and Cutshall's (1986) research study of a real life event. 13 members were interviewed using Loftus and Palmer's (1974 cited in Hill, 1998) technique in their recall four to five months after witnessing an attempted robbery in daylight where one individual was killed and another, really wounded. It was found that there was a very high level of similarity between the accounts distributed by the witnesses, the accounts didn't adjust in response to leading questions and that the witnesses could actually recall the event in detail. Additionally, accounts of these who were more distressed got a higher accuracy and reliability level. These email address details are dissimilar to Loftus and Palmer (1974 cited in Hill, 1998). The eye witnesses didn't adjust their accounts greatly in response to leading questions. As this is a research study, it holds high ecological validity unlike lab experiments. Although this can be true, Yuille and Cutshall's case study was of an event that was relatively distressing event and was looked at in ideal conditions. Most happenings do not mirror this setting up. Also, it was an investigation of only one research study. Hence, the application of these conclusions is debatable when applied to general eye witness testimonies.


This essay examined the degree of correctness of the claim that eyewitness testimony shouldn't be depended upon. This is done by focusing on the different factors that make a difference human memory space, and in relationship, eyewitness testimony as it is fundamentally based on memory. Experiments and case studies related to factors in three different ram stages were discovered and evaluated.

Research regarding the acquisition process such as visibility time, estimation of factors concerning the event, for example, time, assault of the event, weapon concentration and see' stress level through the event was analysed. Results indicate a relationship of high levels of inaccuracy when more distressing factors are contained in the event. That is also shown in research regarding the retention process and the retrieval process although there is some data that supports the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony. Overall analysis criticised the low ecological validity of controlled experiments but also reinforced the advanced of validity that comes with it as it essentially offers a cause and impact romantic relationship between specific parameters tested. Circumstance studies were found to be very specific in relation to certain factors, which brings about a debate about their standard application. Since tests are just replications of real-life incidents, it can not be fully considered as the genuine process. This may have some affect on the results obtained as possible argued that the members are not really experiencing the event, thus essential factors like, atmosphere, or even interest in the event may be jeopardized. In this manner, results of circumstance studies hold an increased level of stability.

As suggested by the many researches on different facets during the procedure for collecting, control and retrieving information from recollection, eye see testimony is reliable and then a small level. Under such fallibility, it can be questioned if eyewitness testimony should be relied on in any way. Though eyewitness testimony has been proven accurate in a number of researches, the amount of investigations concluding on the actual fact that it's highly imperfect far outweighs it. Though a sizable number of studies do not support the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony, there is also evidence to aid it like Yuille and Cutshall's (1986) case study. This shows that although eyewitness testimony can be unreliable, under certain conditions, it is highly correct.

Implications for program of the research in this article could include jurors being more cautious with eyewitness testimony and the conditions associated with it when deciding upon a verdict. Further research could include more circumstance studies to improve the ecological validity of the ideas produced by tests analysed in this article.


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