Assignment: Memory Retrieval Effort
*Correspondence: Philip U. Gustafsson
Specialty section: This article was submitted to
Forensic and Legal Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 13 November 2018 Accepted: 13 March 2019 Published: 29 March 2019
Citation: Gustafsson PU, Lindholm T and
Jönsson FU (2019) Predicting Accuracy in Eyewitness Testimonies
With Memory Retrieval Effort and Confidence.
Front. Psychol. 10:703. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00703
Predicting Accuracy in Eyewitness Testimonies With Memory Retrieval Effort and Confidence Philip U. Gustafsson* , Torun Lindholm and Fredrik U. Jönsson
Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Evaluating eyewitness testimonies has proven a difficult task. Recent research, however, suggests that incorrect memories are more effortful to retrieve than correct memories, and confidence in a memory is based on retrieval effort. We aimed to replicate and extend these findings, adding retrieval latency as a predictor of memory accuracy. Participants watched a film sequence with a staged crime and were interviewed about its content. We then analyzed retrieval effort cues in witness responses.
Results showed that incorrect memories included more “effort cues” than correct memories. While correct responses were produced faster than incorrect responses, delays in responses proved a better predictor of accuracy than response latency. Furthermore, participants were more confident in correct than incorrect responses, and the effort cues partially mediated this confidence-accuracy relation. In sum, the results support previous findings of a relationship between memory accuracy and objectively verifiable cues to retrieval effort.
Keywords: eyewitness accuracy, eyewitness testimony, confidence-accuracy relation, response latency, retrieval effort cues
Eyewitness memories are often critical sources of information for investigating what happened during a criminal offense (Wells et al., 2006). Although playing a central role in criminal investigations and decision-making, eyewitness evidence has often been found to be unreliable, and constitutes a major contributing factor behind wrongful convictions (Garrett, 2011; Innocence project, 2018).
Erroneous eyewitness reports are sometimes due to a witness’ deliberate lies about the target event (see DePaulo et al., 2003; Sporer and Schwandt, 2006; Vrij et al., 2017). Perhaps less obvious, and another major source of eyewitness error, is when a witness gives an honest report but remembers things incorrectly. While differentiating between sincere correct and incorrect memories may be critical to reaching valid judicial decisions, research has demonstrated that people have great difficulty in judging the accuracy of others’ memories (Lindholm, 2005, 2008a,b).
Despite its importance to the judicial process, relatively little research has examined the extent to which erroneous eyewitness memories may differ from those that are accurate. The present study attempts to provide insight into potential differences between honestly reported correct and incorrect verbal eyewitness testimonies. We do this by replicating and extending the research of Lindholm et al. (2018), in which memory
Frontiers in Psychology | www.frontiersin.org 1 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 703
fpsyg-10-00703 March 28, 2019 Time: 18:56 # 2
Gustafsson et al. Effort Cues, Confidence, and Accuracy
accuracy was found to be related to indicators of retrieval effort in witnesses’ responses.
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