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Eye Witness Identification

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1 Eye Witness Identification
Psychology and the Law Eye Witness Identification

2 Plan for Today Memory Construction Eye witness identification

3 Memory Construction It is surprisingly easy to distort and/or create memories Memory is strongly influenced by our views, attitudes and beliefs at the time of recall Reform Party MP Jack Ramsay Elizabeth Loftus’ studies Schooler (1986) – Psychologists can’t tell the difference between real and implanted memories

4 Eye Witness Identification
Loftus (1979) “Did another car pass the red Datsun while it was stopped at the stop sign? It was a yield sign at the intersection the subject had previously seen.

5 Loftus & Palmer (1974) How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other? How fast were the cars going when they hit each other. In the first condition subjects “remember” the cars were going much faster than do subjects in the second condition.

6 Our Preconceptions Control our Interpretations and Memories
FOLK CROAK SOAK What do we call the white part of an egg?

7 Priming Scary movie Subliminal priming Stereotype priming
e.g., the elderly

8 False Identification Most common reason for convicting the innocent.
In U.S cases founded on eyewitness identification are tried each year. The Innocence Project Association of the Defense for the Wrongfully Convicted

9 Eyewitness Testimony Loftus (1979) – Robbery/murder case
18% conviction rate jumps to 72% with addition of eyewitness Only falls to 68% with witness discredited Wells (1981) – even with poor conditions 62% still believed eyewitness (1980) – both correct and incorrect eyewitnesses were believed 80% of the time

10 Jurors belief of Eyewitnesses
Wells (1981) – jurors tend to believe witnesses whose memory for trivial details is poor, but these are usually the best (most accurate) witnesses The more details remembered about the scene, the less details remembered about the face and victim The more confident the witness, often times the more likely they are to be wrong

11 Eye Witness Research Estimator variables
e.g. physical and temporal context of the crime (distance, lighting, duration, weather) Age, gender, race, emotional state, witness eye-sight Their impact on the accuracy of an identification can only be estimated

12 System Variables E.g. procedures used to select members of line-up, the presentation, instruction given to witness, conditions in the interview, interview style These are factors over which the police and justice system have at least some control

13 Line-ups Photo line-ups “head and shoulders”
Distractors - lineup members other than the suspect Matching to Appearance strategy They don’t have to look the similar, they just have to match the witness’s oral description Unconscious transference

14 Double Blind Procedure
Can advertantly or inadvertantly cue the witness e.g. “Take your time” - to tentative description subtle unconscious cues (coughing, voice inflection) reinforcement can raise witness confidence levels (witness confidence trumps accuracy)

15 Instructions to the Witness
“The person you saw commit the crime may or may not be in the photos you are about to see.” Present the photos sequentially (Lindsay and Wells 1985) relative vs.absolute judgement strategies

16 Sequential Photo Lineup
1. You are going to see a series of photos to determine whether you can identify the person you saw commit the robbery last week. Please keep in mind that the person you saw may or may not be in the photos. 2. You will be shown the photos one at a time and you will not be told how many photos there are. For each photo, please decide, “Yes that is the person I saw” or “No, that is not the person I saw.” 3. If you say no to a photo you will not be able to return to it later and if you choose a photo you will not be allowed to see any remaining photos.

17 Other Identification Procedures
Cold mugshot search Walkthrough procedure Show up procedure “Oklahoma lineup” Composite sketch Identi-Kit and Photo-Fit

18 Eyewitness Identification
Confidence is not a reliable indicator of accuracy We perceive events selectively and use imagination to fill in the gaps Ample evidence that witnesses often choose the wrong person from a line up Discussion or questioning about events can alter or add to memory Cross racial identification is harder to do than identification within race

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