Forensic Psychology Lab
Eyewitness testimony is often central to the investigation and prosecution of crimes. Past research has shown that positive eyewitness identification is one of the most persuasive forms of evidence for juries. This is worrying given that, of 317 post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the United States, eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 73% of wrongful convictions (The Innocence Project, 2014). Despite advances in DNA technology, however, reliance on eyewitness testimony has not significantly diminished. As a result, it is of vital importance to understand when and why eyewitness errors occur.
Our work in this area has focused on investigating variables which can affect the accuracy and completeness of eyewitness memory. For example, in collaboration with Dr. Helen Paterson, Associate Professor Richard Kemp has looked at the effects of co-witness discussion on eyewitness memory. This research has demonstrated that witnesses not only talk about the event with each other, but can often contaminate each other’s memories for what happened. Other projects have investigated which interviewing techniques increase the accuracy of the information about the event. Our current work also aims to extend the literature from honest eyewitnesses to deceptive individuals by exploring the effects of deception on eyewitness memory. We also work with police, government agencies, legal professionals and judges to highlight the difficulties associated with the collection and use of eyewitness evidence, and to guide the development of policy and practice in this area.