McLeod, S. A. (2009). Eyewitness testimony. Retrieved from
The author of the article, Saul McLeod, is a psychology tutor and researcher for The University of Manchester, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology. He has also previously worked for Wigan and Leigh College, as a psychology lecturer for ten years. Saul has previously obtained a Bachelor of Science in psychology, a M.S. in research and methodology and quantitative methods, and a Ph.D. in psychology, from the University of Manchester.
The main idea of the article is questioning how reliable eye witness testimony really is to police and juries. The review proposes that research in area has been finding that eyewitness testimony can be affected by multiple psychological factors. The key terms in the article are eyewitness testimony, cognitive, anxiety, stress, reconstructive memory, schemas, and weapon focus. Eyewitness testimony, reconstructive memory, schemas, and weapon focus were well defined, the other key terms were not.
The source of empirical evidence identified in the article is research done by several psychology professionals.
There were several studies done to prove that eyewitness testimony may stand as unreliable to police and juries, but the study that stood out the most to me was the famous study, “War of Ghosts”, done by Frederic Bartlett in 1932. The design of the study was a repeated measure experimental design. This study was done to investigate whether one’s memory may be affected by previous knowledge, also known as schemas, and the extent to which memory is reconstructive.
Bartlett asked the participants in the study to listen to a story and repeat it to another person, after a specific period. The story was a North American folktale, “The War of Ghosts”. A hypothesis was provided, but no research questions were mentioned. The article failed to mention how the sample was selected or the number of participants. The conclusion of Bartlett’s study was that memory recall is influenced by one’s schema, also known as preexisting knowledge, which can easily be influenced by cultural knowledge.
The research evidence is credible. All researchers have been published in peer reviewed journals. The names of the lead researchers were identified in the article, although the institutions which supported the research were not identified in the article. but can be easily identified elsewhere. All research mentioned can be acquired and further reviewed.
The psychological theory mentioned by the author was Barlett’s theory of reconstructive memory, which I believe is appropriate to the topic. Bartlett claimed that people do not just passively remember things but instead, reconstruct memories by taking in pieces of what we see and hear, from the world around us, schemas then fill in the gaps. However, this was not the only theory mentioned in the article, providing readers with various perspectives to look at.
Another perspective that should be examined while discussing this topic and schemas, is Jean Piaget’s theory basing schema on accommodation and assimilation. I believe another viewpoint should always be looked at to get a broad understanding of the different opinions on one topic. In this case, Piaget proposed an alternative theory, that people are constantly adapting to the environment as they take in new information and learn new things. In result, schemas can be changed or modified.
The author’s main conclusion was that juries tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony and generally find it a reliable source of information; however, that it can be easily affected by many psychological factors. I believe the information provided by the author was clear, accurate and sufficiently related to the conclusion. One implication mentioned by the author was that our memories are anything but reliable, ‘photographic’ records of events. Instead, they are individual recollections which have been shaped & constructed according to our stereotypes, beliefs, expectations etc., based on the study done by Allport & Postman (1947).
In terms of the credibility of the author who wrote the research, I do believe he was a good fit to write the psychology-based article on eyewitness testimony. Since the author cited a variety of research-based information and evidence related to the topic was provided that, therefore, strengthened the article. Although, he did not really discuss the strengths and limitations of the research and could have provided a bit more information as to how the research was conducted, as well and anecdotal information.
I do not believe that eyewitness testimony is as reliable to police and juries as it may seem. As mentioned in the article, there are enough factors that can easily influence the source of information, therefore, leaving professionals with inaccurate evidence. Therefore, with interest in this specific topic, I was glad to get the information I was able to and review a number of different experiments providing outcomes to prove eyewitness to be untrustworthy.
As a psychology major, interested in the forensic field of psychology, the research enables me to better understand that eyewitness testimony is an important area of research in cognitive psychology and the human memory. I believe that this article and the research that I reviewed might be able to help me in my future, as a forensic psychologist. Personally, the article gives me knowledge to share with others in the same field. I am currently enrolled in a criminal investigations class and I believe that this topic would be great for class discussion.