Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Eyewitnesses May Misidentify Perpetrator Of A Crime Due To Stress Or Fear

Date:
July 21, 2008
Source:
Goldsmiths, University of London
Summary:
A new study highlights the fragility of eyewitness identification used within the criminal justice system. The study shows that stress and fear reduce the likelihood of successful identification, bringing into question a victim's ability to identify the perpetrator of a crime.

Researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London have conducted a study that highlights the fragility of eyewitness identification used within the criminal justice system. The study shows that stress and fear reduce the likelihood of successful identification, bringing into question a victim’s ability to identify the perpetrator of a crime.

Visitors to the London Dungeon were asked to describe and identify an actor encountered in the ‘Labyrinth of the Lost’ who stepped out to block their path. Whilst they were in the labyrinth, some participants wore a heart rate monitor to measure the level of their anxiety. The researchers found that participants who had experienced a higher state of anxiety were less likely to report correct descriptions of the actor and were less likely to correctly identify him/her in a line-up than participants who had experienced less anxiety.

Most research on the effectiveness of eyewitness identification is likely to overestimate accuracy because the participant witnesses do not feel the fear or stress evoked by crime that would be present in real situations. For ethical reasons, participants in experiments cannot be subjected to the same stress that a victim of crime may experience. This study sought to recreate a similar level of fear and stress, however, by using the scare in the London Dungeon so as to understand what effect such stress may have on memory.

Professor of Psychology, Tim Valentine, who headed the research, emphasised the significance of the results: "We know already that mistaken eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the USA. This research takes us a step closer to understanding the problem.”

“The experience in the Labyrinth of the Lost is much less extreme than the stress a victim of crime may experience, but we still observed a catastrophic failure of identification by visitors who found the experience stressful.”

“The research doesn't suggest there is anything wrong with the identification procedures that the police use, but does demonstrate just how difficult it can be for a victim to identify the offender."

Evidence shows that mistaken eyewitness identification is a common cause of miscarriages of justice. 218 people wrongly convicted in the USA have been exonerated by new DNA analysis from crime scene samples. 75% of these cases were the result of mistaken eyewitness identification.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Goldsmiths, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Valentine et al. Eyewitness identification under stress in the London Dungeon. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 2008; DOI: 10.1002/acp.1463

Cite This Page:

Goldsmiths, University of London. "Eyewitnesses May Misidentify Perpetrator Of A Crime Due To Stress Or Fear." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717230406.htm>.
Goldsmiths, University of London. (2008, July 21). Eyewitnesses May Misidentify Perpetrator Of A Crime Due To Stress Or Fear. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717230406.htm
Goldsmiths, University of London. "Eyewitnesses May Misidentify Perpetrator Of A Crime Due To Stress Or Fear." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/07/080717230406.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

China's Ageing Millions Look Forward to Bleak Future

AFP (July 24, 2014) China's elderly population is expanding so quickly that children struggle to look after them, pushing them to do something unexpected in Chinese society- move their parents into a nursing home. Duration: 02:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins