Eyewitness Testimony: Effects of Gender on Memory Recall Georgia College and State University ? Abstract Eyewitness testimony is a frequently used tool in the judicial system. Although studies have shown that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate due to the many different factors that affect our everyday memory, this study focused on gender being a factor in memory recall. Male and female participants were shown a video of a crime that was taking place. Participants watched a video of either a male or a female committing a crime.
After watching the video participants were given a series of recall tests, and evaluated on their accuracy of the event. The responses were then compared. Participants were given points based on the accuracy of their responses. Gender was also evaluated in this study. Each participant was asked to identify the sex of the criminal as well. According to previously recorded research women will be more likely to identify a female criminal, and have a higher recall of true details from the crime. Exploring Eyewitness Testimony: The Effects of Gender on Memory Recall
Memory is “the process involved in retaining, retrieving, and using information about stimuli, images, events, ideas, and skills after the original information is no longer present” (Goldstein 116). Memory is made up of sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory holds information for only a few seconds. Short-term memory holds 5-7 items for about 15-30 seconds. Long-term memory can hold a large capacity of information for long periods of time. Long-term memory consists of explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memory is made up of episodic and semantic memories.
Episodic memory is memories based on personal experience, whereas semantic memories consist of fact and knowledge. Implicit memories consist of priming, procedural memory, and classical conditioning. Implicit memories are also known as non-declarative memory because they often times are not linked to personal experience or episodic memory (Goldstein, 2008). Memory is a tool that we use every day. It is also very fragile and can be easily manipulated. Learning to effectively use memory is very important in recall. Memory can be easily influenced by many different factors.
This could cause many problems in the recall of eyewitness testimony. One issue that could lead to faulty eyewitness testimonies is the source of the information presented. In a study conducted by Dobson and Markham (1993) they explored the idea of source monitoring as a factor of inaccurate testimonies. In this study they found that witness often mistake what they actually see with prior information they have received about the event (Dobson & Markham, 1993). Individuals watched a video and were given misleading information in text form either before or after the video.
Their results showed that individuals could identify the source of misinformation given from within texts, but often times found that they used the misleading textual information when giving details about the video (Dobson & Markham, 1993). Research shows that these factors can lead to false testimonies, but could the sex of the individual also play a role in the accuracy of eyewitness testimony? As mentioned earlier, episodic memory is an important component of long-term memory and plays an important role in the recall of memories.
Studies show that this type of memory may not only be affected by environmental stimuli, but gender as well. In a study conducted by Agneta Herlitz and Jenny Rehnman, they explored the idea that gender plays a role in the accuracy of episodic memories (2008). According to this research women are more likely to perform better on verbal tasks, whereas men are more superior on visuospatial tasks (Herlitz & Rehnman, 2008). An example of a verbal task would be the rapid recall of words that begin with a particular letter, whereas a visuospatial task would include identifying a rotated figure (Herlitz & Rehnman, 2008).
In their study they found that women have this advantage over men in these tasks because they have higher verbal processes. This study suggests that women use their higher verbal abilities to help them recognize faces. Although this was not supported in the findings the research did show that women are significantly better at recognizing faces than men. The study also revealed that women are more likely to recognize the faces of their own gender and men are not bias toward the faces of men or women (Herlitz & Rehnman, 2008). Overall this tudy suggests that there is a difference between male and females in the recall of episodic memory, but also further research should continue to be conducted (Herlitz & Rehnman, 2008). Eyewitness testimony has been looked at closely throughout the years. There has been numerous studies conducted on the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness testimony. In the meta-analysis, “Munsterberg Legacy: What Does Eyewitness Research Tell Us about the Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony? ” the article takes a look at the previous studies done regarding the reliability of eyewitness testimony.
Mastroberardino, Memon, and Fraser (2008) review the findings of Munsterberg and Buckhout. The previous findings of Munsterberg found that the structure of a question can lead witnesses astray. He also found that attention plays a role in the recall of events. These findings lead to future research, and new policies and practices within the criminal justice system (Mastroberardino et al. , 2008). In one study conducted by Igor Areh, he found that in the year 2010 there were an estimated 216 DNA exonerations in the U. S. due to false testimonies (2010). According to this study gender may also have an effect on memory recall.
This study also reveals that women are more likely to recall episodic memories whereas males are more accurate with spatial recognition (Areh, 2010). The results of this study show that females are able to more accurately identify details than males. Females are also more likely to identify emotional memories and men more neutral or concrete memories (Areh, 2010). In this study done by Areh (2010) women and men were told to read scripts of a couple that contained concrete information such as planning to remodel their home, and also emotional information such as relationship problems.
The results showed that women recalled more of the emotional information in the script, but the study also revealed that women recalled the neutral information as well. This study shows that women not only have a stronger correlation to emotional memory, but it does not affect their ability to recall concrete information (Areh, 2010). This study shows that males are more confident in their memory, but are not always accurate in their recall. Studies have shown a significantly higher correlation between females and their ability to remember details.
It also revealed that women are better at facial recognition, and are more likely to recognize faces of the same sex (Areh, 2010). In Shaw and Skolnick’s (1999) they found that women are more likely to recognize faces of women whereas men are more likely to identify male faces. Although gender was a factor it was based on whether there was a weapon present or not. When there was no weapon present participants were more susceptible to gender bias then if there were a weapon present (Shaw & Skolnick, 1999).
In another study conducted by Hassan and Rahman (2007) they found that women outperform men in object location recognition. In this study they tested positional memory by showing participants objects in a particular location and asking them to locate them on a blank screen. They found that women were more accurate in locating the objects in there correct position (Hassan & Rahman, 2007). Methods Participants In this study a sample of 200 young adults was randomly selected, their ages ranging from 18-25. 100 males and 100 females were representative of the population.
Participants were selected from various college campuses in Georgia. Advertisements such as flyers were distributed in order to inform participants of the upcoming experiments. The experiment was also posted online. Participants will receive compensation of twenty dollars for participating in Phase 1 of the experiment, and will also receive payment of twenty dollars for Phase 2 of the experiment which will be conducted a week after Phase 1. The experiment will measure the affect that gender has on memory recall.
Participants will be aware of the contents of the experiment, and will be thoroughly debriefed due to the deception nature involved in testing. Materials The instructional tools used in this experiment consisted of videos of a violent crime that was being committed. In the one video the participant will observe a woman robbing a store with a gun; while the other video portrays the same crime, but with a male committing the crime. After the video has been shown participants will be given a recall test. This test will ask participants to write down everything they remember about the crime that occurred.
Participants will then receive a recognition test that contains details that occurred in the crime as well as details that did not occur. Participants will then be asked to identify which factors were actually present in the crime scene video. Procedure Participants will be randomly assigned to a group. Group 1 will consist of both male and females as well as Group 2. Each group will be shown a video of a violent crime that is being committed. The crime will consist of a robbery taking place in a convenience store where the criminal holds his victim at gunpoint.
Group 1 will see a video of the crime taking place with a male as the criminal whereas Group 2 will see a video with a female committing the crime. Both videos show a group of frightened bystanders and their reactions within the store in order to measure the emotional aspect of memory. Participants will then be asked to recall the events that happened right after the experiment has taken place. Participants will also be tested on their recognition and given a series of items to identify that were shown in the experiment; items that were not previously presented will also be included in the recognition test.
In order to prevent disruption of memory both groups will return to the original setting that they viewed the video a week later, and will be asked to recall the events of the videos that they viewed. Accuracy will be based on the number of correct details observed. Individuals will be given 1 point for each detail they get correctly and 0 points for each detail that is not correct. Participants will then be asked how sure they are on the details that they saw. Using a Likert scale they will be asked to identify “Extremely Confident, Confident, Neutral, Not Confident, and Extremely Unconfident.
Also participants will be asked to identify the sex of the criminal that was presented in their video. By asking participants to identify the sex of the criminal I will be measuring facial recognition of men and women. According to previous findings women will be more likely to recognize the face of the same sex whereas men will be more likely to recognize faces of their own sex. Analysis and Predicted Results As illustrated in Table 1 this experiment should reveal that women are more likely to recall details in eyewitness testimony.
The results should also reveal that women will be more likely to recognize faces of their own gender. The results should reveal that women will be more likely to recall the distraught and emotional bystanders because they identify with more emotional memories than men. Also men will more likely report false details than women although they feel as though they are reporting correctly. Men will be more likely to recognize concrete details. The study should reveal that gender-bias plays a role in identification.
Women will be more likely to recognize the female criminal whereas men will be more likely to identify the sex of the male criminal. The results may reveal that there is no effect on gender and memory, and men and women are able to recall the same amount of information. Also male and females may identify with the opposite gender and not just their own. Some confounding variables that may arise are the population is representative of only college students which could also alter results because younger individuals usually have a better memory than the elderly or older adults (Areh, 2010).
Another issue that may occur is participants may not return for the follow up study after a week which could affect the results. Other issues that could arise could be the effect of environmental stimuli. Although the conditions in which the participants encode and retrieve information will be as similar as possible. Participants may not be in the same emotional state when they are receiving the information, as they are when asked to recall which could also be a confounding variable. ? References Areh, Igor. (2010). Gender-related differences in eyewitness testimony.
Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 559-563. Chandler, C. C, & Fisher, R. P. (1996). Retrieval processes and witness memory. Handbook of perception and cognition (pp. 493-524). San Diego, CA: Dobson, Matthew, & Markham, Roslyn. (1993). Imagery ability and source monitoring: implications for eyewitness memory. British Journal of Psychology, 32, 111-118. Goldstein, E. Bruce. ( 2011). Cognitive psychology third edition . Canada: Wadsworth. Herlitz, A, & Rehnman, J. (2008). Sex differences in episodic memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(1), 52-56.
Memon, Amina, Mastroberadino, Serena, & Fraser, Joanne. (2008). Munsterburg’s legacy: what does eyewitness research tell us about the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Applied Cognitive Psychology , 22. doi: 10. 1002/acp. 1487 Shaw, J. I, & Skolnick, P. (1999). Weapon focus and gender differences in eyewitness accuracy: arousal versus salience. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29(11), 2328-2341. Table 1 Table 1 illustrates the comparison of male and females on memory recall; showing that females have a higher recall than males.