Accuracy of eyewitness testimony: Anxiety (Evaluation (An alternative…
Accuracy of eyewitness testimony: Anxiety
An alternative model
No simple conclusion
Real life versus lab studies
Weapon focus may not be caued by anxiety
Anxiety- an unpleasant emotional state that is often accompanied by increased heart rate and rapid breathing, i.e psychological arousal
Effects Of Anxiety
Resolving the contradiction
Kenneth Deffenbacher (1983) reviewed 21 studies of the effects of anxiety on eyewitness memory. 10 of these studies had results that linked higher arousal levels to increased eyewitness while 11 of them showed the opposite.
Anxiety has a positive effect on accuracy
75% accurate recall
Christianson and Hubinette (1993) found evidence of enhanced recall when they questioned 58 real witenesses to bank robberies in Sweden. The witnesses were either victims or bystander, i.e. high and low anxiety respectively. The interviews were conducted 4-15 months after the robberies.
There is an evolutionary argument that suggests it would be adaptive to remember events that are emotionally important so that you could identify similar situations in the future and recall how to respond.
Key study: Johnson and Scott (1976)
Loftus et al. (1987) showed that anxiety does focus attention on central features of a crime. Mostly on the weapon.
Mean accuracy was 49% in identifying the man in the pen condition, compared with 33% accuracy in the knife condition.
Johnson and Scott asked participants to sit in a waiting room and heard an argument in another room and see a man run through the room carrying either a pen covered in grease (low anxiety condition) or a knife covered in blood (high anxiety, 'weapon focus' condition). Then ppts were asked to find them from photos.
Anxiety has a negative effect on accuracy
Stress has a negative effect on memory as well as performance generally.
Automatic skills are not affected by stress/psychological arousal but performance on complicated cognitive tasks is reduced by stress.