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The General Acceptance of Psychological Research on Eyewitness Testimony: A Survey of the Experts

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Abstract

Sixty-three experts on eyewitness testimony were surveyed about their courtroom experiences and opinions on various issues. There was a strong consensus indicated by an agreement rate of at least 80% that the data on the following topics are reliable enough to present in court: the wording of questions, lineup instructions, misleading postevent information, the accuracy-confidence correlation, attitudes and expectations, exposure time, unconscious transference, showups, and the forgetting curve. Over 70% of the experts also endorsed lineup fairness, the cross-race identification bias among White witnesses, and the tendency to overestimate the duration of events. Although most eyewitness experts who have testified have done so on behalf of criminal defendants, they were just as likely to consent for the prosecution as for the defense; moreover, they were more likely to agree to testify in civil cases than in criminal. Concerning their role in court, most respondents indicated that their main objective is to educate the jury, and that juries are more competent with the aid of experts than without. The results are discussed in relation to the "general acceptance" provision of the Frye test and the limitations of this test for determining the admissibility of expert testimony.
... These diverging research findings with respect to how stress at encoding impacts memory performance suggest that disagreement might also exist between different types of experts about topics related to acute stress and memory. Additionally, beliefs held by the general population about stress and memory do not always mirror expert knowledge (e.g., Yarmey & Jones, 1983 (Kassin et al., 1989(Kassin et al., , 2001Yarmey & Jones, 1983 agreed with the statement that When a person experienced extreme stress as the victim of a crime, he/she will have reduced ability to notice and remember the details of the event (Yarmey & Jones, 1983). In 1989, 73% of eyewitness experts (N = 63) agreed that the statement Very high levels of stress impair the accuracy of eyewitness testimony was reliable enough to present in court (Kassin et al., 1989). ...
... Additionally, beliefs held by the general population about stress and memory do not always mirror expert knowledge (e.g., Yarmey & Jones, 1983 (Kassin et al., 1989(Kassin et al., , 2001Yarmey & Jones, 1983 agreed with the statement that When a person experienced extreme stress as the victim of a crime, he/she will have reduced ability to notice and remember the details of the event (Yarmey & Jones, 1983). In 1989, 73% of eyewitness experts (N = 63) agreed that the statement Very high levels of stress impair the accuracy of eyewitness testimony was reliable enough to present in court (Kassin et al., 1989). By 2001, agreement levels had dropped to 60% (N = 62; Kassin et al., 2001). ...
... Furthermore, experts' opinions can also affect legal decision-making when they testify as expert witnesses. Indeed, the effects of stress on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony was identified as the topic second most frequently testified about by experts across 21 eyewitness-related topics (Kassin et al., 1989). Therefore, even though the different research fields focusing on stress and memory do not show conclusive findings, understanding laypeople's and expert's beliefs with respect to this topic is still vital due to these potential real-world consequences. ...
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This survey examined lay and expert beliefs about statements concerning stress effects on (eyewitness) memory. Thirty-seven eyewitness memory experts, 36 fundamental memory experts, and 109 laypeople endorsed, opposed, or selected don’t know responses for a range of statements relating to the effects of stress at encoding and retrieval. We examined proportions in each group and differences between groups (eyewitness memory experts vs. fundamental memory experts; experts vs. laypeople) for endorsements (agree vs. disagree) and selections (don’t know vs. agree/disagree). High proportions of experts from both research fields agreed that very high levels of stress impair the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. A majority of fundamental experts, but not eyewitness experts, endorsed the idea that stress experienced during encoding can enhance memory. Responses to statements regarding moderating factors such as stressor severity and detail type provided further insight into this discrepancy. Eyewitness memory experts more frequently selected the don’t know option for neuroscientific statements regarding stress effects on memory than fundamental memory experts, although don’t know selections were substantial among both expert groups. Laypeople’s responses to eight of the statements differed statistically from expert answers on topics such as memory in children, in professionals such as police officers, for faces and short crimes, and the existence of repression, providing insight into possible ‘commonsense’ beliefs on stress effects on memory. Our findings capture the current state of knowledge about stress effects on memory as reflected by sample of experts and laypeople, and highlight areas where further research and consensus would be valuable.
... Researchers have accepted that the quality of memory reduces as time passes (Kassin et al., 1989). A review of the eyewitness literature done by Penrod et al (1982), found that the loss of eyewitness memory follows Ebbinghaus curve. ...
... A review of the eyewitness literature done by Penrod et al (1982), found that the loss of eyewitness memory follows Ebbinghaus curve. Kassin et al (1989) suggested that eyewitness memory rapidly decrease with time and then levels off. ...
Conference Paper
Eyewitness memory plays a crucial role in criminal investigation. The present study examined the effect of retention interval on the accuracy of eyewitness memory and the effect of emotional arousal on the memory of plot relevant and plot irrelevant details. A video (Ghosh, 2020) depicting a shooting scene was chosen to be used in this study. In this video, two men try to shoot a shopkeeper and then run away. A total of 16 subjects, 8 females and 8 males, of the age range 18-55 years participated in this study. All of them were shown the same video clip. Two similar questionnaires, containing 12 questions each was prepared. Each questionnaire contained six plot relevant and six plot irrelevant questions. Plot relevant questions are based on the central details of the crime, which revolves around the violent part, that is, gun shooting (eg. How any guns did the shooters have). Plot irrelevant questions are related to the peripheral details shown in the video (eg. Identify the object present in the shopkeeper's table). One questionnaire was administered immediately after watching the video and the second questionnaire was administered after three days. In order to prevent learning effect, the wording of the questions and response options were slightly changed. A significant difference was observed between the scores in immediate and delayed condition. However, no significant difference was observed between the scores of plot relevant and irrelevant questions. The effect of suggestibility was also observed as some participants who gave a correct answer during the first report gave a completely different answer in the second report, when the wording was slightly changed. It was found that the accuracy of eye witness memory is poorer in delayed condition compared to immediate condition. Thus, the study suggests that criminal investigators should take the testimony of eye witnesses as early as possible, any delay could reduce the amount of details recalled.
... Adding to the discredit of eyewitness confidence, most of the earliest experimental studies on the confidence-accuracy relationship (CA) showed that confidence and accuracy were at best weakly correlated (Deffenbacher, 1980;Leippe, 1980). In fact, the evidence suggesting a weak CA relationship was so prevalent that most eyewitness memory experts agreed that "An eyewitness's confidence is not a good postdictor of his or her identification accuracy" (Kassin, Ellsworth, & Smith, 1989), an opinion that persisted for at least ten years Estimating Eyewitness Identification Accuracy 4 (Kassin, Tubb, Hosch, & Memon, 2001). As a consequence, some jurisdictions reconsidered the reliance on confidence when evaluating eyewitness evidence, challenging the previous common sense that confident witnesses are more likely to be correct. ...
Chapter
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Even though there are multiple factors that may impair eyewitness memory, triers of fact typically trust eyewitness accounts regardless of the witnessing and identification conditions. This highlights the need for an evaluation of factors that relate to the strength of eyewitness identification evidence. In psychological research, there has been an extensive effort to try and identify such markers that may be used to better distinguish accurate from inaccurate eyewitness identification decisions. In this chapter, I aim to summarize the main findings regarding such potential postdictors of eyewitness identification accuracy. Specifically, I will discuss the role of eyewitness confidence, decision time, decision processes and individual differences in distinguishing accurate from inaccurate identification decisions.
... The majority of this research has focused on experts' beliefs about laypeople's knowledge. Kassin et al. (1989;2001), for example, assessed whether experts believed that laypeople knew the effect of specific estimator variables on memory accuracy; they did not, however, assess what laypeople actually knew. Later, Benton et al. (2006) surveyed jurors, judges, and law enforcement professionals and determined that laypeople held beliefs about memory that differed significantly from experts' responses 87% of the time. ...
Article
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This research builds on James Ost’s research investigating whether laypeople’s beliefs align with those of experts. Recent studies that examined the relationship between high-confidence eyewitness identifications and accuracy proposed that the mechanism underlying this relationship may be based on a knowledge-conditional model. According to this model, the accuracy of a confidence judgment depends on knowledge about factors that affect memory accuracy. However, there has not been a comprehensive assessment of laypeople’s knowledge about the effect on memory accuracy of many estimator variables known to influence the accuracy of eyewitnesses, specifically those relevant to research on the relationship between witness confidence and accuracy. This study consists of the development of a 30-item scale to assess laypeople’s knowledge of the effect of 10 common estimator variables on memory accuracy from three points of view (POV): Self, Other, and Juror. Across MTurk and undergraduate samples, laypeople’s beliefs about the effect of these estimator variables were generally consistent with research findings and did not differ as a function of POV. Additionally, for most estimator variables, participants’ beliefs about memory were consistent with results in the confidence-accuracy literature; confidence and identification accuracy appear to be poorly calibrated for estimator variables that people know less about.
... Alguns estudos defendem que o grau de certeza durante um julgamento de memória possui uma relação direta com o desempenho e essa relação se mantém com o passar do tempo(Dallenbach, 1913; ver também Brewer, Keast, & Rishworth, 2002;Lindsay, Nilsen, & Read, 2000;Lindsay, Read, & Sharma, 1998; Stephenson, Brandstatter, & Wagner, 1983). Outros trabalhos em contrapartida, relataram que a relação entre confiança e desempenho seria muito pouco confiável(Berger & Herringer, 1991;Penrod & Cutler, 1995;Kassin, Ellsworth, & Smith, 1989) e que a fraca ou inexistente relação entre confiança e desempenho é um dos achados mais consistentes na literatura ...
Article
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A conformidade de memória consiste em alterações dos relatos de memória de um indivíduo provocadas por relatos de memória de outro(s) indivíduo(s). Considerando a importância deste fenômeno no âmbito forense, especialmente na entrevista de testemunhas oculares, o objetivo do presente estudo é compreender melhor o fenômeno da conformidade de memória, e discutir suas implicações nas práticas de inquérito policial. Para isto, realizamos uma revisão narrativa de estudos de laboratório sobre conformidade de memória e de estudos sobre práticas de inquérito. A literatura indica que embora a investigação científica da conformidade de memória tenha apresentado grande avanço nas últimas duas décadas, a incorporação destes achados na prática forense brasileira ainda é lenta. No Brasil, a adoção de práticas de entrevista de testemunhas baseadas em evidência ainda depende de infraestrutura adequada, além de alterações legislativas e em procedimentos administrativos, policiais e jurídicos.
... Although the challenges and related research are relevant to expert testimony events (as they were meant to address admissibility decisions by judges), they are also relevant to the anticipatory process of developing expert testimony because they speak to the development of psychology's foundational knowledge and thus of the review and synthesis process of psychological research. Kassin, Ellsworth, and Smith (1989) were the first researchers that we know of who empirically examined expert consensus on eyewitness research findings. They surveyed 63 scholars, most of whom had published research and/or testified as experts on the topic of eyewitness testimony. ...
Chapter
A review of psychological expert testimony for the courts
... Thirty years ago, Kassin, Ellsworth, and Smith (1989) reported the results of a survey of experts on the psychology of eyewitness identifications. As a follow-up, Kassin and Barndollar (1992) ...
Article
Despite a body of confessions research that is generally accepted in the scientific community, courts often exclude experts on the ground that such testimony would not assist the jury, which can use its common sense. To examine whether laypeople know the contents of expert testimony on confessions, we asked 151 lay participants to indicate their beliefs about 30 confession‐related statements used in a recent survey of 87 confession experts (Kassin, Redlich, Alceste & Luke, 2018). Participants agreed with experts on only 10 of the 30 propositions, suggesting that much of the psychology of confessions is not common knowledge and that expert testimony can assist the trier of fact. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... To account for these findings it has been suggested that the effect of emotion on memory follows an inverted U-curve (Yerkes-Dodson law) whereby low and high levels of emotion impair memory whilst moderate levels enhance memory performance (Kassin, Ellsworth & Smith, 1989). However several studies show evidence of accurate and detailed memories following highly stressful events (e.g. ...
Thesis
Studies have consistently shown that emotionally arousing events are better learned and remembered than neutral events. There is wide consensus that this emotional memory advantage is linked to the cognitive and physiological effects of emotional arousal, and that the amygdala plays a key role. However the role of other brain structures is less well understood. The present study aimed to explore the role of emotional responsiveness in emotional memory, by studying a clinical population in whom emotional responsiveness itself is altered. The performance of six people with frontal lobe lesions was compared with that of twelve matched controls, on five emotional memory tasks. Results suggested that emotional memory effects depend upon both how memory is assessed, and the nature of the emotional stimuli. For highly arousing negative stimuli, preserved superiority for emotional material was shown in the frontal group. However frontal participants showed significantly greater difficulty, compared to controls, where valent (but not specifically arousing) stimuli mediated the memory-enhancing effect. This effect was most evident 1) where memory was assessed implicitly, and 2) on a source memory task, where performance of the frontal group was disrupted for positive stimuli. On a test assessing retrieval of autobiographical memories, the frontal group showed greater difficulty in recalling memories, especially in response to negative cue words. These findings are discussed in the context of contemporary literature on emotional memory, in both clinical and normal populations. The contribution of this study to understanding the role of the frontal lobe in aspects of emotional memory is considered and both clinical and research implications are explored.
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Three experiments examined the possibility that eyewitness identifications may be biased because persons may be much better able to recognize a face than to recall where they saw it. In Experiment 1, 14 college-student subjects were asked both to recognize 50 facial photographs seen 2 days before and to recall in which of two distinctive rooms they had been seen. Strong recognition and minimal recall were found. Experiments 2 (64 college-student subjects) and 3 (146 college-student subjects) modeled more closely the usual criminal identification situation with mugshot and lineup sessions occurring after the initial encounter with the suspects. Subjects in Experiment 2 were aware they would need to remember the subjects' faces; in Experiment 3, they were not aware of this need. Both experiments provided evidence of considerable confusion in mugshot and lineup identifications as well as a lack of correlation between eyewitness accuracy and confidence. In addition, there were strong mugshot-induced biases in Experiment 3 that could have a bearing on questions of legal procedure and the admissibility of evidence.
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Conducted 4 experiments to test the hypothesis that retrospective self-awareness (RSA) would increase the correlation between eyewitness identification accuracy and confidence. Undergraduate students (48, 33, 75, and 72 in Exps I–IV, respectively) participated as Ss. In all studies, Ss watched a staged crime; immediately afterwards, they were asked to identify the culprit from a photospread and to indicate their confidence in that judgment. In an RSA condition, Ss also viewed a videotape of their performance before rating their confidence. Collectively, the results show an average correlation of .04 in the control groups and .48 in the RSA condition. The data tentatively support a self-perception hypothesis that this manipulation is effective because it alerts Ss to valid but previously unobserved aspects of their own overt behavior (e.g., response latency). Findings are discussed for their theoretical and forensic implications. (50 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Discusses the controversial issue of whether experimental psychologists should give expert testimony in court, especially with regard to issues of eyewitness reliability. The empirical literature suggests that potential jurors do not have a good understanding of the variables influencing eyewitness accuracy and that they cannot discriminate adequately between accurate and false eyewitness identification testimony. Experiments using expert testimony as a treatment variable, however, have not made a definitive case that expert testimony can benefit trial outcomes. It is suggested that the question of whether to give expert testimony must be broadened to consider not only the effects on verdicts but also the effects of expert testimony on the process by which verdicts are reached, the practices of police in subsequent investigations, the public's view of psychology, the practices of judges in subsequent cases, and the interaction between expert testimony and research activities. (25 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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States that the attention devoted by psychologists to eyewitness identification issues is far out of proportion to the incidence of trials involving eyewitness identifications of criminal defendants and that the often-expressed concern over wrongful convictions is probably misplaced. The experimental methods used in studies of eyewitness performance are viewed as fundamentally unsuited for drawing conclusions about actual witnesses, so that there is not an adequate scientific foundation for expert psychological testimony on eyewitness identification. The resolution of this problem through the use of amicus briefs, a "concordance of experts" approach, and further experimentation is discussed, and it is concluded that archival research is perhaps the most promising approach to the study of the criminal justice system. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Discusses the role of social science in legal proceedings, giving special attention to the ethical situation of the expert psychologist asked to testify about the reliability of an eyewitness identification. It is argued that one cannot discuss the ethics of expert psychological testimony without attending to the quality of the research and theory on which the testimony is based. The present author also identifies as considerations that bear on the propriety of such testimony the information the fact finder is likely to receive in its absence and the factual guilt of the defendant. (4 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
An audio recording of a simulated police interrogation of a woman alleging rape was played to 58 subjects, who subsequently recalled and answered questions about it in one of three experimental conditions: individual, dyadic, and four-person group. Dyads and groups were required to agree on all responses. A macropropositional analysis of the interrogation was used to classify propositions in each recall protocol in terms of their correspondence to those of the original. Although groups produced twice as many "correct" propositions as did individuals, the total number of recall propositions, and reconstructive and confusional errors, did not vary between conditions, and individuals gave nearly five times as many metastatements as did groups. This analysis and further analyses of propositions correctly recalled suggest that groups gave conventional accounts of the evidence in contrast with individuals' evaluations of the interrogation. Groups and dyads were characteristically overconfident about wrong answers.
Article
Examined the US judiciary's use of witness level of confidence as 1 of 5 criteria in judging the trustworthiness of eyewitness testimony. Juror perceptions of witness confidence account for 50% of the variance in juror judgments as to witness accuracy. However, a review of 43 separate assessments of the accuracy/confidence relation in eye- and earwitnesses does not support certainty as a predictor of accuracy. Statistical support was found for the notion that the predictability of accuracy from overtly expressed confidence varies directly with the degree of optimality of information-processing conditions during encoding of the witnessed event, memory storage, and testing of the witness's memory. Low optimal conditions, those mitigating against the likelihood of highly reliable testimony, typically resulted in a zero correlation of confidence and accuracy. Using the arbitrary criterion of 70% or greater accuracy to define high optimal conditions, 7 forensically relevant laboratory studies are identified, with 6 exhibiting significant positive correlations of confidence and accuracy. It is concluded, however, that no really clear criteria currently exist for distinguishing post hoc high from low optimal witnessing conditions in any particular real-life situation. (34 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Inasmuch as a completely satisfactory estimate of effect size for the eyewitness accuracy-confidence relation does not exist, we conducted a meta-analysis of 35 staged-event studies. Estimated r = .25 ( d = .52), with a 95% confidence interval of .08 to .42. Sampling error accounted for 52% of the variation in r, leaving room for measurement error and possibly moderator variables to account for the remaining variation. Further analysis identified duration of target face exposure as a moderator variable, providing support for Deffenbacher's (1980) optimality hypothesis. When corrected for the attenuating effect of sampling error in the accuracy-confidence correlations, the correlation of exposure duration and the accuracy-confidence correlation was .51: Longer exposures allowed for greater predictability of accuracy from confidence. Even through correlation for unreliability in the confidence measure produces a higher estimate of the population correlation of accuracy and confidence, .34, one must be cautious in assessing the utility of confidence for predicting accuracy in actual cases. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Explored the relation of the feeling of knowing to 2 other modes of expressing knowledge, recall and recognition, by examining how manipulations of encoding, storage, and retrieval conditions affected the relative frequency of positive and negative feeling of knowing judgments and feeling of knowing accuracy. In Exp I, 16 undergraduates made feeling-of-knowing predictions immediately and 1 wk after studying cue–target pairs to determine whether yes or no judgments were influenced by the retention interval between study and test. In Exp II, encoding and retrieval conditions were manipulated with 32 Ss. Exp III explored the possibility that the distribution and accuracy of feeling of knowing judgments are also influenced by the qualitative resemblance between encoding and retrieval conditions; 36 undergraduates served as Ss. Relative frequency of positive and negative feeling-of-knowing judgments, like recall and recognition, was influenced by experimentally induced changes in encoding, storage, and retrieval conditions. In contrast, feeling-of-knowing accuracy was not sensitive to changes in encoding and storage conditions but was affected by changes in retrieval conditions. (40 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)