Accuracy in Eyewitness Testimony

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Accuracy in eyewitness testimony The accuracy of eyewitness (EW) testimony can be affected by many psychological factors. The purpose of this essay is to outline and evaluate these different factors. Eyewitnesses usually experience anxiety during a crime, as they are exposed to potential danger. Two important things must be considered about anxiety in eyewitnesses. First of all, the level of anxiety is determinate by the threat of danger. Deffenbacher et al. gave evidence for this in 2004; he did 2 meta-analysis combining numerous studies on the effects of anxiety and stress on an EW memory. In one of them he found that the average correct identification of the eyewitnesses was 54% for people that were exposed to low anxiety conditions compared to 42% exposed to high anxiety condition. This suggests that high anxiety situations have a negative impact on EW identification accuracy. In the second one he considered the recall of culprits and scene details. He found that details were correctly recalled by 64% for low anxiety conditions compared to 52% for high anxiety conditions. This shows that high anxiety reduces the ability to identify details of a crime. Also, we have to consider that eyewitnesses victims of a violent crime will register more the situations that pose a treat to them, like the criminal’s weapon. This is supported by Loftus’s study in 1979, Weapon Focus, where participants overheard a harmless discussion followed by one of them emerging the room holding a pen; whereas another group of participants overheard a hostile and aggressive argument between two people followed by one of them emerging holding a letter opener covered in blood. When the participants were asked to identify the culprit, only 33% of those in the weapon condition where able to identify him, compared to 49% in the other condition. This experiment does not have demand
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