Eyewitness and Recalling Shook Hands I Shook Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 4
  • Subject: Psychology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #62015673

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Eyewitness and Recalling

Shook hands

I shook hands with Bugs Bunny... Describe and evaluate the role of schemas and stereotypes on recalling past events. What implications does this have for the accuracy of eyewitness accounts of events?

I shook hands with Bugs Bunny... Describe and evaluate the role of schemas and stereotypes on recalling past events. What implications does this have for the accuracy of eyewitness accounts of events?

Literature on Schemas

Literature on Schemas and Stereotypes and their role in Eyewitness

I shook hands with Bugs Bunny... Describe and evaluate the role of schemas and stereotypes on recalling past events. What implications does this have for the accuracy of eyewitness accounts of events?


To investigate and prosecute crime the criminal justice system heavily depends on eyewitness identification (Wells & Olson, 2003). An eyewitness goes through different psychological procedures prior to the courtroom testimony. It is evident that before coming to the court, an eyewitness goes through different complex processes such as, interaction of memory, perception and judgment, different processes of communication processes, and faces influences from surroundings and society. All these circumstances and factor influence an eyewitness describes of what happened. So it is not surprising that such type of testimony is not flawless (Wells & Turtle, 1987). The current essay is aimed at exploring the definition of schemas and stereotypes and their role in memory processing.

Literature on Schemas

Research studies show that most of the information we remember is not without the possibility of distortion or fabrication or at least there is possibility of its being inherently subjective (Pansky, 2005). Different people have different causes to remember or recollect an event? These discrepancies are because of several factors. First, every individual holds his/her own encoding system of perceptual events (Pansky, 2005). Further the perception is influenced by different such as lights, point of vantage, the significance of the incident and the notion perceived by an individual as how the event should take place (Pansky, 2005). Gerrie (2006) conducted a research study on the phenomenon as how people develop false memories systematically for any event as they know how it should have happened logically. In his study the participants used a digital video in which a woman was shown preparing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The participants of the research were asked to split the video into action units. For the purpose of the study the researcher removed some action sequences from the video and remaining clips were shown to the participants. In this research, recognition techniques of the clips were employed by the researchers. The researcher found that when the participants were asked to recognize scenes one by one 17% of them filled in the dots incorrectly. This revealed that the focus of the participants was on the pre-determined norms that this event should have taken place in this manner. The results of this study showed important information for investigators making it clear that schemas have an important role to assess, remember and repot on the sequence of an event (Brewer & Treyens, 1981)

Literature on Schemas and Stereotypes and their role in Eyewitness


Previously different aspects of eyewitness from have been researched including role of schemas and stereotypes. As DNA cannot be used to solve every crimes and several perpetrators are strictly committed eyewitness testimony alone (Huff, Rattner, & Sagarin, 1996). An example is the innocence project which is a national and public policy organization devoted to absolving people wrongfully convicted through DNA testing and to reform the criminal justice system to avoid injustice in future (Gerrie, Belcher, 7 Garry, 2006). The results of a study revealed that while the employees of innocence project considered their first seventy cases, it was surprising for them to know that almost in fifty percent of the cases inaccurate eyewitness testimony was a cause of wrongful convictions (Gerrie, Garry, & loftus, 2005). In psychology studies the concept of eyewitness testimony is not a new concern there have been a great number of researches done in this area since 1900's at different levels. (Wells & Turtle, 1987). There are many factors that cause undermining of eyewitnesses accuracy. These include impaired memory, prejudices, chauvinisms, schemas (Pansky, Koriat, & Goldsmith, 2005), stress (Easterbook, 1959), problems in perceptions, and suggestions made by investigators (Egeth, 1993). In addition to these the age of an eyewitness and presence of weapon are also important aspects to accuracy (Wagstaff, 2003), it is also question whether a witness is competent or not (Charman & Wells, 2008).

Another aspect which has been much debated in the eyewitness research is the concept of identifying criminal suspects from photo arrays or lineups (Wells & Lindsay, 1985). This is thought to be the best method for identification of a perpetrator, and the police rely on this method heavily (Wells & Turtle, 1987). It seems easy to pick out the perpetrator but it is very complex and is not without errors (Wells & Turtle, 1987). As a result most of the eyewitness testimony focuses to develop and evaluate the measures of lineup properties (Tredous, 1999). There has been research focused on fairness of lineup, size of lineup, assessment of individual foils, and the clues of accomplice lineups (Tredous, 1990). Tredous (1999) concluded that certain statistical considerations should be mindfully evaluated while ascertaining and reporting the measures of lineup fairness (Tredous, 1999).

Humans have capability to develop false memories for any events that they see or experiences (Loftus, 1979), some also have capability to implant imaginary details into our memories for any given event (Loftus & Zanni, 1975). Loftus and Zanni proved through their study that suggestive questioning can influence and alter memories. In their study, they showed participants a brief film in which a car accident was shown and there were no broken headlight. The participants were asked two questions with minor changes. The questions were (1)"Did you see a broken headlight?" And (2) "Did you see the broken headlight?" Thus by putting slight variation in the way question was asked Loftus and Zanni found when a question implied a specific event the participants were more likely to answer yes. In the case of their research the broken headlight was the specific question. It was clear from this study that when witness are exposed to subtle post event suggestion it influences them to develop false memories and perceive the events in a wrong way.

Researchers are also of the view that some type of individuals such as police officers can perceive and remember the events in a better and true way because of their specialized training in the field (Stanny & Johnson, 2000). Now the question arises whether this type of training creates better eyewitness under stress? Stanny and Jonson conducted an experimental study. In their study a group of police officers and a group of civilians participated; both were exposed to a stressful incident and/or a neutral one. In the later tests of memories it was found that in stressful situation both the group had less capability to report as compared to a neutral situation

Nemeth & Belli (2006) observed that the most consistent observations in cognitive psychology revolve round the notion that participants falsely remember misinformation to them after some witnessed event (Nemeth & Belli, 2006). These observations are found to be of greater implications in practical settings, in particular regarding the lineup recognition and the confidence in eyewitness testimony (Charman & Wells, 2008). Though there is a greater information on false memory and its implication there is little research on the role that schemas play to assess and remember an event. In 1981, Brewer & Treyens conducted an experimental research study on schema-consistent and schema-inconsistent items. The schema-consistent and schema-inconsistent items were used like books in office and picnic basket in one place and participants were exposed to these items. Afterwards the researcher asked the participants to recall the items freely in the office; results of the study revealed that it was more likely for participants of the study to remember schema consistent items rather then remembering schema-inconsistent items.

Highly stressful situations have a negative impact on the memory of the witness and cause problems in recalling the actual events and even they are unable to recognize faces of the attackers. Morgan (2004) discusses that though generally it is believed that a witness never forgets the face of the attacker in particular those whom they confronted physically and had been in contact with them for a longer period of time, it has been found that victims cannot identify their perpetrator (Morgan, 2004). Payne (2002) concluded that even moderate level of stress leads to the impairment of the memory function. The findings discussed above hold serious implications while we consider eyewitness testimony, and dependence of the law on eyewitness when looking for an assurance of a perpetrator.

Christianson (1993) also concluded that greater level of emotional stress causes memory impairment (Christianson & Hubirette, 1993), and therefore eyewitness should not be considered much reliable (Loftus, 1979). For example, consider a…

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