The results of research into the effect of age on eye witness testimony have been highly mixed and this is thought to have been dependent on a number of factors which will be discussed in the evaluation.

The following research has looked at children and the accuracy of eye witness testimony:

  • Roberts and Lamb - they analysed 161 police interviews with children regarding allegations of abuse.
  • In 68 / 161 of the interviews the interviewer misinterpreted “in private” as “in the privates” and in 2/3 of these cases this remained uncorrected by the children.
  • Therefore, this research would suggest that people of a young age do not have accurate eye witness testimony.
  • Davies - found that differences between child and adult interviews were overstated and that children can provide very valuable eye witness testimony as long as care is taken during the interviewing procedure.
  • Therefore, this research would suggest that people of a young age do have accurate eye witness testimony.

 

The following research has looked and the elderly and the accuracy of eye witness testimony:

  • Cohen and Faulkner - they showed 70 year olds and 35 year olds a film of a kidnapping then presented them with misleading details before asking them to recall what happened in the film.
  • They found that the 70 years olds were more likely to be mislead than the 35 years olds.
  • Therefore, this research would suggest that people of an old age do not have accurate eye witness testimony.
  • Coxon and Valentine - they asked children (aged 8 ), young adults (aged 17) and older adults (aged 70) questions containing misleading information after they had watched a video. They then asked a further 20 specific questions to assess whether they had accepted the misleading information or not.
  • They found that the older adults were less suggestible and were the only age group not to show a statistically significant misinformation effect.
  • Therefore, this research would suggest that people of an old age do have accurate eye witness testimony.

Evaluation

  • Strength / Weakness - most of the research is lab based meaning it is replicable and scientific but is lacking in ecological validity.
  • Strength / Weakness - research that is in the form of naturally¬†occurring¬†phenomena (Roberts and Lamb) has good ecological validity but is not scientific or replicable as variables were not highly controlled and because it is not artificial. It would also be unethical to test eye witness testimony when a real sensitive subject is being discussed.
  • Strength / Weakness - the results could be due to a number of factors such as: young people may be more used to memory tests or older adults have poorer health leading to memory impairment.
  • Weakness - the research findings are inconclusive.
  • Weakness - the factors given by researchers, such as the ones stated, are only assumptions with no scientific evidence.
  • Weakness - the research over exaggerates how bad memory is. This could be due to the fact that it is being studied in lab conditions and only the short term effects of memory and eye witness testimony are being taken into account.