The aim of your essay is to describe this research and then argue what role psychology can play in helping to answer this legal question. This area could be memory for eyewitness testimony, or communication for the deception question. Accordingly, use a case study to help communicate your response.
Step 2: Identify two factors within this main area of research
For example, you could select factors such as: gender, age, distractions, weapons focus or time since event, and how these factors may impact on memory, and therefore eyewitness testimony. If you choose the deception question, you could look at factors such as eye contact, paralanguage, body language, distance, gender or age.
Step 3: Construct your argument
In this step you will argue what role psychology can play in helping to answer the legal question you have chosen. You should provide a clear examination of the research on the selected factors using journal articles to back up your arguments.
Describe the factors you chose and support your argument with at least one journal article for each factor selected. Scientific studies are vital to the application of the law. You will need to find one article that relates to each factor you have chosen and summarise the research findings, then relate the findings to how they can help us understand the impact of each factor on either eyewitness testimony, detecting deception or false confessions. For example, for false confessions, you should evaluate current research into this area scientifically. Then in your response, consider the approaches used by psychologists to identify false confessions and also individual factors that may have contributed to such a confession.
Step 4: Discuss the legal implications of analysis
Given these questions are all legal in nature, ensure you consider associated implications from the position of the forensic psychologist. If they are to assist the court what major issues might they want to clarify to the jury?
Step 5: Write a conclusion to complete your essay
Once you have completed Steps 3–6, the bulk of your essay is complete. The next step is to write a conclusion.
What conclusions do you draw from your examination of these two factors to cohesively argue the role psychology can play in addressing the question?
The Importance of Eyewitness Testimony in Legal Proceedings
The most critical aspect of a criminal case can be defined as the availability of evidence at the spot of crime. Research studies have revealed that the presence of eye witnesses who can testify the happenings at the crime spot and contribute in the development of the case proceedings have been heavily relied upon by the police department (Brewer & Wilson, 2013). Evidences in the form of a weapon or certain belonging at the crime spot serve as clues that help in building up on the case, however research studies have revealed that the statement made by the eye witnesses have contributed heavily in the unfolding of the case (Gurney et al., 2013).
Further, studies have also explained the prime importance of the eye witnesses to a crime scene as the only aspect of witness dispensed by a living being and hence has considered it to be extremely important (Cicourel, 2017). It should be noted that on an average it has been estimated that without the proper testimony of an eye witness there is a possibility that less than 10% of the police cases would be solved and the convicts be appropriately penalised (Houston et al., 2013).
This essay would throw light on the contribution of eye witnesses in the area of crime. It would also talk about whether or not the testimony confessed by the key eye witnesses serve as a reliable tool and effectively help in unraveling the crime scene and reaching to the main culprit. This essay would make use of the available literature sources in favor of the topic and help in establishing an argument and would further discuss the importance and the strength that the testimony of an eye witness carries in unfolding a criminal case.
In order to go ahead with the established statement that eye witnesses play a major role in the unwinding of the criminal case and reaching to the culprit, a case study would be evaluated and considered (Odinot et al., 2009). The case study that has been incorporated in the essay talks about the effectiveness and the accuracy of the testimony provided by the key eye witnesses about a particular crime incident and draws a contrast with the evidences accumulated by the surveillance devices to cross check the authenticity of the gathered evidences (Odinut et al., 2009).
The case study was based upon a structured interview that was conducted with 14 prime eye witnesses of an armed robbery and the interview took place after a time period of 3 months. The eye witnesses primarily relied upon their memory in order to narrate the details of the happenings that took place on the day of the robbery. In order to evaluate the level of accuracy of the human memory and the testimony built up upon the memory the verbal details of the incidences were correlated along with the surveillance recordings (Odinot et al., 2009).
On closely analyzing both the data it was found that the data generated by the group of 14 eye witnesses comprised of an 84% accuracy which further suggests that the memory of the witnesses could be heavily relied upon to perceive the details of the happenings. At the same time, it should also be crucially noted that the incident had taken place almost three months before and a considerable time frame had passed post the happening of the incident. The incident had been featured on social media, print media as well as news channels on the television and different dimensions of narrations have been involved while portraying the happenings of the incident.
The Role of Psychology in Understanding the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
However despite all the above said factors that lead to the generation of a disrupted image of the critical happenings of the day, the memory of the eye witnesses that were present on the day the robbery incident took place did not fade away or was not affected or rather manipulated in any manner (Lindsay et al., 2013). Hence, it can be admitted that the eye witnesses present an overview about the detailed happenings of a crime incident based upon the grasped memory (Jules & McQuiston, 2013). It should be vividly noted that the accurately recalled information had a much higher confidence interval than information and figures that were not recalled with accurate precision. It was also noted that the correlation coefficient of accuracy to confidence was around the statistical confidence interval of 0.38 (Odinot et al., 2009).
Therefore on the basis of the input furnished by the case discussed above it can be stated that eye witnesses play an important role in determining the course of police investigations and seeking criminal justice. The first clue about a criminal case is primarily dependent upon the revelation made by the eye witness. However, in this context it should also be noted that the testimony of the eye witness is dealt in different manners either inside the forensic laboratory or at the crime spot (Loftus, 2013). While the manner in which the testimony of the witnesses are dealt inside the laboratory premises are rather objective and relies upon the use of diagnostic tools in order to access the accuracy of the information provided as an input to the criminal case, the evidences that are obtained outside the laboratory premises heavily depend upon cross checking the validity of the obtained information on the basis of the confidence evidently portrayed by the witnesses. However, in most of the cases the evidences revealed by the eye witnesses are primarily based upon the cross examination done with the use of diagnostic tools to trace the percentage of truth present in the vivid narration of the memory as perceived during the occurring course of rime events (Soraci et al., 2017).
While recording the testimony of the eye witness it is pivotal to notice the confidence level, the body language and the manner in which the eye witness frames testimonial sentences and links it up to the happenings of the incident (Thomson, 2013). It is extremely important for the investigator to closely pay attention to the body language, speech and the eye contact as well as the movement of the eyes while narrating about the particulars of an incident or testifying about a particular person who has been supposedly alleged as the culprit. While investigating outside the laboratory premises extensive importance is paid to the confidence level of the eye witness. The testimony furnished by the eye witnesses mentioned above revealed an affirmative body language and high confidence level. It is important to speculate the manner in which the witness is able to deliver the information with the maintenance of maximum eye contact and clear speech without any traces of stammering or repetition helps in yielding accurate information (Wixted et al., 2013).
Factors Affecting the Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony: A Case Study Analysis
A case study conducted by Roos af Hjelmsäter (2016), mentions an incident where 131 survivors were interviewed who survived the real life dangerous incident of the sinking ship of Estonia. The researchers actively investigated all the witnesses and substantial information of greater value could be obtained from the collective information responses of the people that generated leads to solve the case. The witnesses generated confident responses with clear memory. This proves that the contribution of witnesses in solving a case is of prime importance.
It is normally seen that witnesses avoiding eye-contact or stammering or repeating the same piece of information time and over again often have been associated with dispensing incorrect information and lies. However at the same time while the investigation process takes place inside the lab processes it is much easier to confront the eye witness and spontaneously detect at the same time whether or not the information supplied is authentic (Vredeveldt & Sauer, 2015),. This is done with a wide range of diagnostic tests such as narcotic tests or lie detection tests where in psychological experts are able to easily predict and dissipate on the basis of the heart beat and speech pattern of the eye witnesses that the information being conveyed can be considered as reliable or false.
Details furnished about a criminal incident by the eye witnesses can be heavily relied upon as the eye witnesses make use of the sensory perceptions such as the sense of sight, touch and smell in order to perceive the happenings and at the same time memorize the proceedings. Studies have revealed that on an average the photo line ups identified by the eye witnesses who were involved in the scenario of a robbery or a snatching are more than 80% accurate (Wixted et al., 2015). The traditional method of identification of a criminal dates back to the identification by the prime witnesses out of a group of six or eight suspected criminals who could have possibly committed the crime. However the system has evolved and presently the eye witnesses are entrusted with the responsibility of identifying a criminal on the basis of photo line ups.
Therefore, it can be said that the traditional method of identification that heavily relied upon using confidence of the witnesses as a tool to determine and verify the criminal has now reformed to standard procedures that make use of diagnostic criteria and analytical psychometric calculations. Hence, it can be said that a major proportion of verifying and cross examination of the collected facts relies with the psychological experts who make use of delusional questions and cross questions and situational analysis in order to perceive the authenticity of the information that is being delivered (Soraci et al., 2017). It can be argued that a major proportion of the details furnished by the eye witnesses are made up or are incorrect that have led to the cause of delay in rendering justice or sentencing the deserving criminals (Thomson, 2013). This solely accounts for the reason why the diagnosis criteria and the verification procedure have been reformed and why so much of importance has been given on evaluating the body language and psychological mind set of the witnesses delivering information.
Implications for the Forensic Psychologist
The inclusion of eye-witnesses in a judicial case has the following legal implication. It helps in influencing the decision of the jury and presents a relevant interpretation of the crime scenario. It also helps in providing a reliable information that can be used as an evidence in the court of law (Houston et al., 2013). However, the discrepancy in delivering the correct testimony, conviction of the wrong culprit and false accusation based on poor memory have been identified as the negative aspect of including eye witnesses in legal cases.Conclusion:
Therefore to conclude it can be said that the eye witnesses form the first and the primary source for the investigators from where the information can be collected and a brief idea about the happenings of the crime can be formed. It is important to note here that the case is further introspected and investigated on the basis of the guidelines set by the information gathered from the testimony of the witnesses. A vital amount of importance is given to the testimony or the information given out by the prime eye witnesses as the witnesses form a live scrutinizing tool that primarily records the proceedings of the case and at the same time also helps in narrowing the spectrum of the criminals or culprits involved in the crime.
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