Key question - Is eye-witness testimony too unreliable to trust?


Key question

What is EWT? Eye-witness testimony is the testimony of someone who has witnessed an event/crime and they are now recollecting the events to be used as evidence in something such as a court case Why is it important in a court case? This is very important in a court case as witnesses can either defend or attack the defendant in question, heavily affecting the jurors response in terms of the guilty verdict Why does society need to question its reliability? The reliability of this has to be questioned in our society as this is a major swinging factor as to whether someone is given a guilty verdict, and, if trials are to be fair for all, then eye-witness testiomonys should not be heavily innacuarte as this would prevent a fair trial. Why isn’t memory inaccurate? EWT is questioned in terms of its reliability, as many studies have highlighted that our memories are not altogether accurate. This is due to our reconsructive memory/schemas. Reconstructive memory is the process by which after an event, our mind fills in gaps in our memory, or changes events to fit in with our own social contrsuct, leading to heavy innacruacies in our memories.

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Explaining the key question

What changes our schmeas/ what makes our memories so innacurate in EWT?

A major example of this would be Language used to question witnesses can alter what they remember.How a questions is worded may distort the orginal memory of the event, leading the witness to give an inaccurate statement.

Loftus and Palmer (1974) demonstrated how leading questions affected the participant’s memories of a crash they’d seen on a video. The answer to the leading question was implied in the question itself, the question suggested what the estimation of speed should be.

The found that smashed made participants to estimate higher (40.5)than those who heard contacted (31.8)


The unreliability of EWT has lead to changes to try and combat this, such as the cognitive interviewing techniquee... a technique in which you aim to ask no leading questions, and do things such as make the witness tell the events from an order other than the narrative perspective, ensuring that they do not fill in gaps using their schema, and research  has found this to be sucessful in preventing innacuracies in witness accounts

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Key question - Evaluation

we need to consider whether the theories and research discussed are credible and trustworthy, and whether there are other theories/ explanations that may apply. A point could be: That EWT can be shown to be untrustworthy, as most of the studies and their findings against EWT are highly scientific, and credible. For example  in the theory of weapon focus, in which it states that when their is a weapon present this is what our primary focus is on,much lab based research was used, which increases the reliability of the findings as a standaridsed procedure is used, with strict control over any extranious variables.

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