Variables in the Justice System that Effect Memory Retention and Recollection
A young woman is walking to her car on a wednesday evening. It is already quite dark so she is careful to stay along the lit sidewalk while proceeding to her car. All of a sudden, a tall man steps out from behind a corner. He quickly approaches her as she looks him in the face, and then at his weapon. She stops and he demands that she hand over her purse, cell phone, and any other valuable items she might be carrying. After swift compliance from the young woman, the attacker runs back around the corner, his footsteps following him to the next street. When she hears a car starting, the young woman cautiously looks around the corner to see a blue sedan speeding away. At this point, her composure has recovered sufficiently to run to the building and find help; shaken, yet unharmed, she waits for the police to arrive.
The process of witnessing an event can be broken down into three phases. Phase one is the acquisition phase, in which the memory is created. Following the acquisition phase, the memory must be retained- a process thus labeled the retention phase. Finally, when a memory must be recalled at any point past the acquisition phase, it is known as the retrieval phase. This chapter will focus largely on the latter two phases as they are most affected by system variables
(Loftus & Loftus, 1976). Among the variables that can affect eyewitness memory in the retention and recollection phases are line-ups and interview techniques. These variables represent two broad categories in which many distinct distortions of memory can occur for various reasons.
Within each are both inappropriate and appropriate examples of how they could be conducted, the former of w...
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...s line-ups involve the ability to multitask while viewing each individual, so they have less cognitive resources to devote to the retrieval process (Carlson & Gronlund, 2011). After identification has occurred, corroboration can increase the certainty of the witness. Corroboration from a fellow witness can make the witness more confident (Skagerberg, 2007) as well as corroboration from interviewers
(Quinlivan, Neuschatz, Douglass, & Wells, 2011).
In review, the young woman at the beginning of the chapter will face multiple challenges in the various stages of memory acquisition, retention, and retrieval. In the retention stage, postevent information can interfere with her original memory. Then, upon retrieval, leading questions, certain interview techniques, and line-up biases can affect both the quantity and quality of information she recalls of the event.