Eye Witness Testimony Can It Be Trusted?

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Submitted By alexcorbett
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“The testimony of an eyewitness is so flawed that it can never be trusted”
To what extent is eyewitness testimony as flawed as the quote suggests?
The eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate and distorted: Eyewitness testimony (EWT) is the evidence provided by people who witnesses a particular event or crime. It relies on recall from memory. EWT includes, for example, descriptions or criminals (e.g. hair colour, height) and crime scenes (e.g. time, date, location). Witnesses are often inaccurate in their recollection of events and the people involved. As you can probably imagine, this has important implications when it comes to police interviews. Many cognitive psychologists focus on working out what factors affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, and how accuracy can be improved in interviews.
Loftus and palmer (1974) studied eyewitness testimony and investigated how EWT can be distorted. Loftus and Zanni (1975) also looked at leading questions. Loftus and Zanni (1975) showed participants a film of a car accident, then asked them either ‘did you see the broken headlight?’ or ‘did you see a broken headlight?’ there was no broken headlight, but 7% of those asked about ‘a’ broken headlight claimed they saw one, compared to 17% in the group asked about the accuracy of people’s memories of an event.
The accuracy of eyewitness testimony is affected by many factors as well as leading questions, there are other factors that can affect the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. The age of the witness can affect the accuracy of recall, Valentine and Coxon (1997) studied this and it showed that the age of the witness can have an effect on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Anxiety can also affect focus. Psychologists tend to believe that small increases in anxiety and arousal may increase the accuracy of memory, but high levels have a negative…...

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