Outline and evaluate research on the accuracy of EWT.

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The term ‘Eyewitness testimony’ (or ‘EWT’) refers to an area of research into the accuracy of memory concerning significant events, such as a crime or an accident, and the types of errors usually made in such situations. There are many theories relating to the accuracy of EWT, including the anxiety of the witness, the role of schemas, the use of leading questions, the effects of misleading information and the use of the Cognitive Interview. All these aspects can contribute to or detract from the reliability of EWT, and I intend to outline and evaluate them in this essay. When dealing with EWT, it is important to consider the type of incident involved. Some incidents, such as violent crimes or serious accidents, are synonymous with high levels of anxiety, which can affect the memory encoded, thus affecting the accuracy of the testimony. Loftus (1979) conducted a laboratory experiment to test the link between anxiety and the accuracy of recall and identification. Participants in this study were exposed to either a situation involving the overhearing of a low-key discussion concerning equipment failure, and then witnessing a man emerge from the laboratory holding a pen and with grease on his hands, or a situation involving the overhearing of a heated and hostile exchange between people in the laboratory, and then witnessing a man emerge from the laboratory holding a paper knife, covered in blood. When asked to identify the man holding the pen, participants accurately identified the person 49% of the time. However, when asked to identify the man holding the knife, participants accurately identified the person only 33% of the time. This study later became known as the ‘weapon focus’ phenomenon, and shows that anxiety arising from the suggestion of violence caused the witness to focus on the weapon (instead of the man), meaning that the central details of the scene were
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