Experimental Psy Article Review

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Experimental Psychology Article review of ‘Distorted Retrospective Eyewitness Reports as Functions of Feedback and Delay’ by Gary L. Wells, Elizabeth A. Olson, and Steve D. Charman. Iowa State University Journal of Experimental Psychology This article was mainly about eye witnesses and the many errors they make in recalling a situation or describing a culprit whether they are asked immediately or after a period of time. In this study, witnesses viewed a crime video and attempted to identify the culprit from a group line-up that did not actually have the culprit present. 253 mistaken-identification eyewitnesses were randomly given confirming, disconfirming, or no feedback regarding their description of the culprit or the culprit’s identification. The feedback process was either immediate or delayed for 48 hours, and measures were also immediate or delayed for 48 hours. It was shown that those who were given confirming feedback gave more distorted information. They had increased confidence in remembering what had happened, were able to make out facial details and their length of time to identify the culprit changed. There was also no difference in their statements when they were asked immediately or after 48 hours. Those who received disconfirming feedback were not so confident and took longer time to identify the culprit. The writers argue that the focus on identification itself, especially in court cases, does not factor in the influence that postidentification suggestions have on the testimony of the eyewitness that might later be given about the identification. They suggest that postidentification feedback from the lineup administrator has strong effects on how the eye witness remembers the original event and on how the eyewitness recalls the identification decision. They call this the Postidentification Feedback Effect. This Effect influences both the retrospective reports of confidence and the eyewitnesses’ retrospective reports of how good their view of the culprit was, how much attention they paid to the culprit, how long they took to identify the culprit and so on. According to the writers, any psychological interpretations of the postidentification feedback effect must take into account the broad range of effects on retrospective reports of the witnessing experience rather than merely the effect on retrospective confidence. There have also been recent studies that have replicated and extended the Postidentification Feedback Effect in various ways. According to one study, “the Postidentification Feedback Effect is reduced by having eyewitnesses think privately about their certainty, the view they had, and so on, prior to giving them feedback (Wells & Bradfield, 1999).

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