The main researchers into eye witness testimony are Loftus & Palmer and they maintain that eye witness testimony is highly unreliable because we interpret information, then store it. Their key piece of research was about language and misleading information in eye witness testimony.
Participants were shown a video of a car crash then three different experiments were carried out.
- Participants in different verb groups were asked to estimate the speed the cars were travelling at when they smashed/ collided/ bumped/ hit/ contacted into one another.
They found that the mean estimate speeds were as follows:
- Smashed- 40.8 mph
- Collided- 39.3 mph
- Bumped- 38.1 mph
- Hit- 34.0 mph
- Contacted- 31.8 mph
The results show that language affects memory recall.
- 2. A week later the participants from each verb condition were asked whether there was any broken glass when the cars smashed/ collided/ bumped/ hit/ contacted into one another (there was actually no broken glass).
- They found that when the verb “hit” was used 14% of participants said yes compared to 32% of participants answering yes when the verb “smashed” was used.
The results also show that language affects susceptibility to misleading questions.
- 3) In a thrid experiment a new group of paticipants were shown the video and one group was asked whether they saw any broken glass whereas the other group was asked whether they saw the broken glass.
- They found that significantly more participants answered yes in the second condition which shows that misleading questions have a significant affect on eye witness testimony.
- Strength- the research has good experimental validity because it is replicable and is scientific because it can demonstrate a cause and effect relationship.
- Strength- the findings of the research are generally judged to be correct when compared with real life cases of eye witness testimony.
- Weakness- the research lacks ecological validity because in real life you are not normally staring and waiting for something to happen but when watching a video you are focused on the scenario.
- Weakness- participants were students meaning the findings cannot be generalised to people of all ages and backgrounds.
- Weakness- the experiment had an artificial setting with no consequences to the answers of the questions meaning the results may be different in a real life situation.
- Weakness- participants only had the opportunity to give a “yes” or “no” answer due to the questions being closed questions.