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Comparison of Loftus and Palmer Essay - Eyewitness Testimonies

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Eyewitness testimonies has been questioned on their reliability by many studies, two of these studies are; Loftus and Palmer's (1974) which was an experiment to investigate whether leading questions would influence the estimations of the speed of a vehicle recalled by a witness. And Yarmey (2004) set out to test eyewitnesses recall and ability to identify a target person from a photographic line-up in a field experiment.

Loftus and Palmer's laboratory experiment was split into two separate experiments the first using 45 participants which were then arranged into various sized groups and shown 7 video clips of different car accidents with each group being shown the videos in various different orders. After they were issued with a questionnaire to answer which included a critical question asking about the speed the cars was travelling when they hit, with all five groups getting a different verb instead of hit such as smashed, collided, bumped or contacted. In contrast Yarmey's experiment was a field experiment where considerable less research had been done than in laboratories and a much bigger sample was used, of 590 men and women. The participants were then approached by a female target who asked either for directions of for help in finding a lost piece of jewellery. Two minutes later the participant was approached by the female researcher and given a 16-question recall test, much like Loftus and Palmer's where the participants were also asked questions on what they had seen/ experienced. They were then given six photographs showing women similar to the female target and asked to identify her, the photos were presented one at a time, and participants were informed that the female target may or may not be there.

Loftus & Palmer used a second experiment were more participants were used and they were asked this time on whether broken glass was seen in a film as well as the speed in which the cars were travelling. Yarmey's experiment did not use two separate parts but like Loftus & Palmer did show variation, such as some participants were prepared for the memory test and some were not, also some were asked to recall straight away whereas some were asked to wait four hours. Also some participants saw the female target in the photograph line-up whereas some didn't. And also like L&P participants were randomly allocated to the variations.

L&P found in experiment 1 that the verb smashed when used in the critical question resulted in a much higher estimate of the speed of the cars and the verb contacted resulted in the lowest, and also in the second experiment the verb smashed for the speed of the cars question resulted in a lot more participants believing that there was broken glass, even though there was none seen in the video. Yarmey found that there was higher recall for the bigger details such as height and top clothing and age, with much lower levels found for and also they found



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