Eyewitness Accounts Of An Accident

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The research conducted by Loftus was based on how eyewitness accounts of an accident can be influenced by different events following the accident that may change their initial interpretation of the accident. She proposes that initial questions asked shortly if not immediately after the accident are an important influence on the witness’s recount of the event because true or false presuppositions may be imbedded into the question that might alter how the witness reconstructs the scene in their head to include the newly introduced information, and in turn their response to the initial questions may not be entirely true. To see how presupposed objects influence people’s memories of an event, four different experiments were set up.
In the first experiment, one hundred and fifty students viewed a clip of a multi-car accident that occurs after a car is unable to stop at a stop sign and right turns into oncoming traffic. Viewer were asked one of two questions, one of which insinuated there was a stop sign and a second question which did not mention a stop sign. Another question, which was identical for both groups, asked whether they saw a stop sign. 53% of those who were asked the question with the presupposed stop sign said “yes” and 35% of those who received the other question said “yes”. This experiment concluded that initial questions asked immediately after an event if worded with a presupposed idea or object can influence a person’s memory of the event to include its existence. Loftus believed this could be explained by strengthening of a person’s recollection of the event to include the presupposed object and the construction hypothesis which supposed that if true information is introduced a person to influence his memory, then f...

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...e second group received five key questions with false presuppositions included in them. The third group, a control group, received all filler questions. When given a week later the direct key questions about the false presupposition that the first group had already been given, 15.6% of the first group, 29.2% of the second group, and 8.4% of the third group reported “yes” to seeing the presuppositions. The experiment showed some support that if a nonexistent object was mentioned, students would tend to report seeing the object in a future questionnaire, and that the idea of a memory being strengthened by the
Ultimately, Loftus concluded that initial questions of an eyewitness account should be done as soon as possible to avoid having the witness integrate new true or false information into their recount of the event which may not be exactly what they had really seen.
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