Flashcards in Factors Affecting EWT - Misleading Information Deck (22):
What is eyewitness testimony?
Eyewitness testimony is the ability of people to remember the details of events, such as accidents and crimes, which they themselves have observed.
What factors can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony?
Accuracy of eyewitness testimony can be affected by factors such as misleading information, leading questions and anxiety
What is misleading information?
This is where incorrect information is given to the eyewitness usually after the event. It can take many forms including leading questions and postevent discussion between witnesses.
What is a leading question?
A leading question is a question which, because of the way it is phrased, suggests a certain answer.
What study investigated whether misleading information distorts the accuracy of an eyewitnesses immediate recall?
Loftus and Palmer
Describe Loftus and Palmer's study into whether misleading information distorts the accuracy of an eyewitnesses immediate recall
45 American students were shown a film of a multiple car crash. They were then asked a series of questions including one 'critical' question: "About how fast were the cars going when they hit each other?". In different conditions the word 'hit' was replaced with the verbs 'smashed', 'collided', 'bumped', or 'contacted'. This is a leading question as the verb used suggests the speed the car was going. An independent groups design was used as participants only took part in one of the five conditions
The results found that participants given the word 'smashed' estimated the highest speed (an average of 41 mph) and those given the word 'contacted' gave the lowest estimate (and average of 32 mph).
This shows that misleading information in the form of a leading question biased the eyewitnesses answer to the question.
What can the results of the study be explained by?
The 'response-bias' explanation
What is the 'response-bias' explanation?
It suggests that the wording of the question doesn't actually affect a person's memory of the event, but instead influences how they decide to answer.
What study investigated whether a leading question can actually alter the participants memory of a clip?
Loftus and Palmer
Describe Loftus and Palmer's study to see if a leading question can actually alter a participant's memory of a clip
A new set of participants were divided into three groups and shown a film of a car accident. One group was given the verb 'smashed', another 'hit' and the third control group was given no indication of the vehicle speed. A week later they were asked "Did you see any broken glass? "(There wasn't any). The number of participants to recall is broken glass was recorded.
The results showed that participants who originally heard 'smash' were twice as likely to recall the false memory of the broken glass than the other conditions.
This shows that leading questions can affect the accuracy of people's memories of an event. This is known as the substitution explanation.
What is post event discussion?
Postevent discussion occurs when conversations take place between witnesses to a crime and this can lead to contamination of their memory for the event. This is because they combine (mis) information from other witnesses with their own memories.
What are the two explanations of the impact of post event information on eyewitness testimony?
Conformity effect and source monitoring/confusion
What is conformity effect?
This is where eye-witnesses go along with other eye-witness testimonies either for social approval because they believe them to be correct
What study investigated the conformity effect?
Gabbert et al
Describe the study that investigated conformity effect
Gabbert et al showed participants a video of a crime. Participants worked in pairs where each partner watch a different video of the same crime, but film from different perspectives. This meant each viewed elements the other could not see. For example, only one of each pair could see the title of a book being carried by a young woman. Both participants then discussed what they had seen before completing an individual test of recall.
The results found that 71% of participants mistakenly recalled aspects of the event they did not see in the video but had picked up in the discussion. The corresponding figure in the control group, where there was no discussion, 0%.
Gabbert et al concluded that witnesses go along with each other, either to win social approval or because they believed the other witnesses are right or wrong. They called this effect 'memory conformity'.
What is the source monitoring/confusion?
This explanation states that after discussing the event with other witnesses, original memories become distorted. This is because witnesses confuse what they actually saw with what they have subsequently heard from other witnesses.
Describe the study that researched into source monitoring/confusion
Seema Clifasefi and colleagues attempted to use leading questions to implant a memory of an event that never happened. They did this by giving their participants a document that claimed to be a personalised food and drink profile based on their earlier responses to a questionnaire. For one Group, the profile included the false information they had once, under the age of six, drunk so much alcohol they were sick.
Later the participants completed a memory test in which a leading question asked when they had become sick from drinking too much alcohol. The researchers found a significant number of the participants 'recalled' being sick before they were 16. But even more surprisingly, a proportion of these participants also claimed they now dialled certain alcoholic drinks because of this (non existent) experience.
Using your knowledge of the effects of misleading information, explain the findings from this study
Substitution theory is when false information or a leading question does influence the person's memory of an event. So when the participants genuinely believed that they had been sick due to too much alcohol intake before they were 16, this is an example of substitution theory.
Response bias is when false information or a leading question doesn't actually affect the memory for the event but instead influences how a person answers the question. The response bias theory would say that the participants didn't actually believe they had drunk so much alcohol they were sick but decided to say that they had to be positive and helpful.
Does research into misleading information have any useful real word applications?
A great strength of all research into misleading information is that it has made an important contribution to our understanding of the fallibility of eyewitness testimony and has had hugely important practical uses in the real world where the consequences of inaccurate EWT can have serious consequences.
Lotus believes that leading questions can have a huge distorting effect on memory and that police officers need to be very careful about how they phrase their questions when interviewing eyewitnesses.
Such research into EWT is one area psychologists believe they can make a important positive difference to the lives of real people and has led psychologists to turn their attention to finding ways to improve the accuracy of EWT.
For example, the cognitive interview was developed by Geisleman et al to try and increase the accuracy of witnesses' recall of events during police questioning.
How are the tasks being artificial a limitation of research into misleading information?
A real limitation is that laboratory experiments such as those carried out by Loftus may not represent real life because participants watched film clips of car accidents. It is quite possible that eyewitnesses remember real events differently from staged. Witnessing a mock car accident is a very different experience from witnessing a real life accident, mainly because such clips lack the stress of a real accident which can impact on accuracy of memory.
This is a limitation as the findings using such artificial tasks may tell us little about how leading questions affect EWT in the real world in terms of accidents and crimes.
It could be that researchers such as Loftus are too pessimistic about the accuracy of EWT- it may be more reliable than many studies suggest.
How are demand characteristics a problem for studies of eyewitness testimonies?
Answers given in laboratory experiments may be affected by demand characteristics. Participants usually do not want to let the researcher down, and want to appear helpful and attentive. So when they are asked a question they don't know the answer to, they guess and answer in the way that they think the researcher wants the to.
Demand characteristics are a problem for studies of EWT because if the participants don't behave naturally it affects the validity of the investigation, as they will no longer be studying the accuracy of the testimony but the participant's ability to work out the aim of the study.