You are on page 1of 13

Eyewitness

testimony
Prof. (Dr.) Amool R. Singh
Director, RINPAS
cum
Professor & Head
Department of Clinical Psychology
Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry & Allied
Sciences (RINPAS)
Kanke, Ranchi - 834006

Eyewitness testimony plays an


important role within the criminal
justice system. For example, the
positive identification of suspect can
provide major advances in an
investigation.

The witnessed event:


There are various types of eye-witness
variables affecting the identification:
Stable characteristics of eye-witnesses (e.g.,
gender, personality)
Malleable characteristics of eye-witnesses
(e.g., whether the eye-witness was
intoxicated at the crime or identification
Eye-witness testimony (e.g., the
diagnosticity of other testimony given by
the eye-witness, such as confidence in the
accuracy of identification)

Stable target (perpetrator) characteristics


(e.g., gender, attractiveness)
Malleable target characteristics (e.g.,
disguises worn by the perpetrator)
Eye-witness environment (e.g., lighting
conditions, exposure duration)
Post-event factors (e.g., the amount o
time between the crime and
identification and what occurs during the
time)

Findings from various


studies:
Witness factors: Research examining
factors such as gender, race or
intelligence, specific personality
factors has not revealed any
particular robust effects indicating
that members of some groups are
better witnesses than others.

The age of the witness has been has been


found associated with identification
accuracy. When a culprit is not present in
the lineup, both young children and elder
witnesses are more likely than young
adults to make a false identification of an
innocent foil.
Older eyewitnesses (e.g., 60 to 80 years)
tend to make more false identification than
younger adults. Blood alcohol level is also
found associated with false identification.

Perpetrator factors: Facial


distinctiveness increases chance of
identification. Disguise, belonging to
different race, ethnic group etc.
increases false identification. There is
preferential processing mechanism
for familiar stimuli.

Situational factors: Exposure duration,


distance (more than 15 meters), amount
of stress or fear a witness may
experience, Orienting response leads to
enhanced memory for informative
aspect of a scene but that the defensive
response can lead to either enhanced
memory of significant memory
impairment depending on other cognitive
and physiological factors.

Retention interval and false


memory:
In the delay between an individual
witnessing a crime and making an
identification attempt, the witnesss
memory is not only prone to decay,
nut it is also vulnerable to the
influence of post-event information
form various sources. It is related to
recall completeness and accuracy.

Delay systematically decreases the


amount of information that can be
recalled. There is a decline in the
correct identification of previously
seem faces after a delay. A decrease
in correct identification and an
increase in false alarms over various
intervals up to three weeks.

Misinformation effect is a powerful


phenomenon resulting in memory
distortions. Co-witness also influence
memory. The difference between two
individuals recalling the incidence may be
due to various reasons including naturally
occurring differences in attention paid to
various details of the event, difference in
temporal and spatial location and
difference in ability to recall those details.

False memory refers to development


of a memory for an entirely new event
that never occurred. False memory
can be created because memory is
(re)constructed.
While false memory and suggestibility
clearly involve distortions of memory,
social factors may also play a role in
encouraging false reports.

Witnesses may generally be more susceptible


to post-event information generated by the
police officer than when generated by a
member of the public. Witnesses may be
susceptible to cues. These may influence
memory more if the actual memory for the
event is poor.
Therefore, interviewer should approach with
an open mind and seek collaborative
evidences to support witnesses claim
wherever possible.