Eyewitness testimony plays a crucial role in the justice system. Misidentification from eyewitnesses was reported in 70% of 300 DNA exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals (Wixted et al., 2015). Similarly, many convicts can also be set free because of juror’s faulty eyewitness recall during examination. Previous research indicated that females are more reliable in recall than men. However, these findings were not extensively examined with regards to time delay prior to the trial. Thus, it is important to systematically examine the various factors that influence eyewitness testimony.
The present study was designed to empirically examine the effects of gender, interview technique, and time interval on eyewitness recall. It was hypothesized that female participants would outscore male participants in both facial and detail recall. It was also hypothesized that the cognitive interview would yield more accurate details about the crime in comparison to the standard interview. It was hypothesized that recall for participants would decay as the time interval increased.
One hundred and four participants were randomly selected from a southeastern university to participate in the study. Ages of the participants ranged from 18-40 and consisted of fifty-two males and fifty-two females. They were required to complete a series of questionnaires consisting of demographics, mood measure, personality test, and standard/cognitive interviews.
The results showed a significant effect between gender, interview technique, and time interval on detail recall. In addition, there was a significant main effect for interview type. There was a significant effect of gender and time interval on facial recall. It was found that extraversion significantly predicted detail recall as did agreeableness and neuroticism. The present findings further extend previous research examining the most effective interviewing techniques for eyewitness recall. It also indicated that females can accurately recall faces after a time delay in comparison to men.
Furthermore, these results also clearly indicate that gender and time interval play a significant role in facial recall. Finally, the findings have practical implications for the jury selection system. For example, attorneys and judges might be inclined to choose women over men for specific cases where eyewitness details may be crucial for conviction. In addition, they may also use facial shots in order to enhance eyewitness recall. Personality measures can assist detectives to determine if a suspect is suitable for an interview. If at all possible, administering personality test for jurors may help in determining certain personality types are more prone to error.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
College of Sciences
Orlando (Main) Campus
Cal, Noel A., "Individual Differences in Eyewitness Testimony" (2016). Honors Undergraduate Theses. 152.
Restricted to the UCF community until December 2016; it will then be open access.