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Eyewitness Assessment Essay

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There are a number of factors that can affect the accuracy of children’s eyewitness accounts, such as suggestive questions, stereotyping and repetition. There have been a number of studies on all three of these factors, proving that they can negatively affect a child’s ability to recall information. One must remember, however, that studies are done in a lab-type environment and therefore lack ecological validity.
One factor that can affect children’s eyewitness accounts is the use of suggestive or leading questions. A study by Krackow & Lynn investigated the influence of suggestive questions on children. Preschool children, ages 48-70 months, experienced two to-be-remembered events (for example, the games Twister and Shapes), which both included
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A study by Memon, Holiday and Hill (2006) has proven that stereotyping can influence recall of memory. In the study, children aged five read one version of a story about a character called Jim by their class teacher. The three different versions described Jim as either careful – a positive stereotype; clumsy – a negative stereotype; or neither careful nor clumsy – a neutral stereotype. A few days later, ‘Jim’ visited their class and introduced himself. He performed some neutral activities, such as showing them a photo of his dog or playing the flute. One and three days later the children were read a description about Jim’s visit by a researcher. The description was the same for all three groups of children, and it contained misleading details; some of these details were positive and some were negative. Three days later, the children were tested on two sets of yes or no questions by a different experimenter. It was made clear to the children that one set of questions related to what happened during Jim’s visit and one related to what they were told about his visit. This procedure was done to find out whether stereotyping affects a child’s memory positively, negatively or both. They found that the children who had heard the positive details about Jim gave answers that were prone to fitting the stereotype. The children were more likely to say ‘yes’ to positive statements about Jim. However, the…show more content…
Krahenbuhl & Blades did a study to investigate the influence of question repetition and question type on a child’s ability to accurately recall. In the study, a total of 136 children age five, seven and nine watched a live fifteen minute presentation. One week later, the children were asked twenty questions that were repeated an additional two times within the interview. The accuracy of the children’s responses to unanswerable questions declined with repetition. They found that children were more likely to change a response to an unanswerable question than to a question to which they know the answer. Generally, children upheld the same answers to only three quarters of the repeated questions. The most common pattern of change was for children to change their answer the second time a question was asked and then to uphold that answer when the question was repeated. This study shows that repetition can have a negative effect on a child’s eyewitness testimony, and therefore making the use of children’s eyewitness accounts of criminal activity ineffective.
However, these studies may not be accurate in proving how these factors affect children’s eyewitness accounts because they lack ecological validity. They were all done in a very lab-like environment, and therefore eliminating the nature of a child’s recall. The children knew that they were participating in a study and therefore they may have
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