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Children on the Witness Stand: A Communication/Persuasion Analysis of Jurors’ Reactions to Child Witnesses

  • Michael R. Leippe
  • Ann Romanczyk

Abstract

Eyewitnesses are pivotal participants in criminal cases, and psychological research on eyewitness memory is therefore of potentially enormous practical value. Yet juries ultimately decide those cases that reach the courtroom. Research may (indeed does) yield insights about factors that influence memory and about the accuracy rates that typify a given witnessing-identification context, but an important question always remains: Do jurors take these factors into account when evaluating an eyewitness report? Put simply, how do jurors perceive and evaluate eyewitness testimony? Despite some claims to the contrary (e.g., McCloskey & Egeth, 1983), the growing research on this issue suggests that jurors’ reliance on eyewitness testimony in deciding guilt is greater than research findings merit. Jurors in laboratory studies, for example, have been found to overbelieve eyewitness identifications (Brigham & Bothwell, 1983; Lindsay, Wells, & Rumpel, 1981), rely too heavily on their impressions of eyewitness confidence (Lindsay et al., 1981; Wells, Lindsay, & Tousignant, 1980), and be misled by witness memory for trivial details when judging face-recognition accuracy (Wells & Leippe, 1981). In short, jurors’ perceptions of adult eyewitness memory and memory-relevant influences may, at least in part, be based on inaccurate stereotypes and assumptions. An important role of psychological research is to identify where and to what extent jurors’ conceptions of eyewitness memory differ from the research-derived “facts” of eyewitness memory. In turn, methods of educating jurors (e.g., through pretrial instructions) might be developed.

Keywords

Experimental Social Psychology Eyewitness Identification Eyewitness Testimony Guilty Verdict Eyewitness Memory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Leippe
  • Ann Romanczyk

There are no affiliations available

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