Reliability, eyewitness testimony, witness, cognitive psychology, criminological psychology, memory of witness
Eyewitness testimony refers to the statement given by a witness to an event, and is a major area of research in cognitive psychology but also has a major effect on criminological psychology, such as being asked to describe the appearance of a suspect, or a detailed account of what occurred before, during and after a certain crime was committed. It is important because in some cases no forensic evidence can be traced, and investigators have no choice but to rely on the memory of witnesses.
[...] Both Loftus and Palmer (1974) and Pickel (1998) prove against the reliability of eyewitness testimony, and therefore major consideration should be taken before court decisions are made which could significantly change lives. However Yuille and Cutshall (1986) believe eyewitness testimony is reliable and is not easily changed by events that occur after the incident. However I strongly believe that in court trials regarding serious criminal offences, scientific data should be relied upon (where possible) as opposed to witness accounts. Although witness recall is reliable to some extent, we should not be taking any chances when it comes to the future of someone's life. [...]
[...] Jennifer Thompson said she had carefully studied the face of the rapist. However when she was told to identify him from the selection of suspects shown, she most likely unconsciously chose the person who matched most closely to the appearance of the rapist, because she was so sure that she knew the facial features of the rapist. This goes to prove that memory is not reliable, as unfortunately Ronald Cotton endured 11 years in prison due to Jennifer Thompson's accidental misjudgement. [...]
[...] Also, jury members may lack the confidence or ability to interpret complex forensic data, and therefore tend to rely more on eyewitness testimony. There have been a large amount of studies and experiments around this issue to identify and understand what key factors may affect the ability to recall a certain event, such as Loftus and Palmer's study (1974). Loftus and Palmer (1974) aimed to investigate the effects of leading questions on eyewitness' ability to recall information, by showing various participants a series of videos or clips and then asking them questions about what they saw, changing the phrasing of the question. [...]
[...] Based on this evidence, as Loftus and Palmer demonstrated, any police/federal interview should never use leading questions as they can significantly alter the details of the investigation. Although Yuille and Cutshall believe memory is accurate after a stressful event, I still believe human memory should not be relied upon to decide the result of a crime case, as it can have detrimental effects on a person's life if they are wrongly accused (as Ronald Cotton was). DNA and scientific evidence should be used wherever possible as they are the only way to ensure there are no misinterpretations or misjudgements in deciding the suspect and victim's futures. [...]
[...] The objects present were one of the follows; A pair of scissors- high threat, low unusualness (commonly seen in hair salon) A handgun- high threat, high unusualness A wallet- low threat, low unusualness A raw chicken- low threat, high unusualness Empty-handed- control condition The participants were then told to complete a filler task for 10 minutes, then fill in a questionnaire asking about the details of the receptionist, the man, what was in his hand and what they thought he was doing in the hair salon. Pickel found that recall of the receptionist was very similar across all conditions, however recall of the man differed significantly depending on the object shown (the situation during the event). The table below shows the mean recall of the number of features about the man; From these results, Pickel understood that the handgun and raw chicken resulted in the poorest recall of the man, showing that high unusualness and high threat items produce low recall. [...]
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