Whose Lie is it Anyway? Eyewitness Memory Misinformation Effect and Public Perceptions of Police

Hopkins, Jemma Lee
Wood, Jay
Landhuis, Erik
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Bachelor of Arts (Honours)
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Auckland University of Technology

Despite memory being considered unreliable and open to suggestive influence, eyewitness memory is still actively used as evidence in the justice system. Misleading information and the source of that information has been found to influence people’s memory of an event. Similarly, the perceived credibility of a source can impact how a person receives a message from this source. As police are often the first responders on the scene taking eyewitness statements, misleading information relayed by police to eyewitness’ may be readily accepted by those who trust the police and perceive them to be a credible source. We hypothesised that participants with high trust in police would be more likely to accept the misleading information and decrease their memory accuracy of the event. The memory of participants with lower trust in police would not, or less so, be affected by the misleading information. Seven hundred and fifty-six participants completed an online survey that involved watching a video of a theft at a petrol station. Following this, participants were presented with one of six articles from either a police or eyewitness point of view describing the theft. These articles had differing levels of misinformation (no misinformation, weak misinformation, or strong misinformation). To test participants memory accuracy, they were then asked questions about the video. We found that misleading information affected memory accuracy. However, we found no evidence to suggest that trust in police influences participants acceptance of misleading information from a source. As we did not find what we expected, we recommend further research to expand on the idea that trust in police may affect the susceptibility of accepting misinformation which could decrease memory accuracy.

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