Characteristics Of Eyewitness Testimony

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The criminal justice system relies on a variety of factors and techniques in order to uphold social control; preventing and alleviating crime, as well as penalizing those who violate the laws that have been placed upon us. Eyewitness identification is relied upon heavily throughout the investigation and prosecution procedures. The term “eyewitness testimony” refers to an account given by an individual of an event that they have witnessed. Although juries tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimonies, finding it a reliable source of information, research has found that an eyewitness testimony can be affected by many psychological factors.
Characteristics of the Witness, the Suspect and Event A variety of characteristics affect an eyewitness’
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Although the amount of time a perpetrator’s face is in view is not as critical, the type or amount of attention given by the witness can play a major role in accuracy. For example, Michael R. Leippe, Gary L. Wells and Thomas M. Ostrom conducted an experiment where they exposed unsuspecting people to a staged theft of a package. Some were led to believe the package contained a valuable item, while some were led to believe that it contained an item of unimportance. Subjects either had prior knowledge of the object’s value or learned of its value prior to the incident. Evidence found that when subjects had prior knowledge to the item’s value they showed higher levels of identification accuracy than those who were unaware. This exemplifies the effect of selective attention during recall. As well, the presence of a weapon can deter an eyewitness’ attention from the actual perpetrator, often referred to as ‘the weapon focus effect’. It is often debated whether the emotional stress of a violent situation, such as one with a weapon, has an effect on the eyewitness’ accuracy (Wells & Olson, …show more content…
Loftus and Palmer conducted a lab experiment in which 45 students were shown films of traffic accidents, followed by a series of questions about how fast the car was going. Students were presented with the verbs hit, smashed, contacted, collided or bumped. The group that received the verb smashed estimated the highest speed, while the group that received contacted estimated the lowest. Their experiment concluded that leading questions has a significant effect on an eyewitness’ memory of the event. Thus, it is evident that the language used by police in interview or lineup settings can have an effect on the memory the eyewitness has of the

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