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Loftus and Palmer Alternative Evidence Essay

Loftus and Zanni showed participants a film of a car accident, they then asked some participants “Did you see a broken headlight?” and others, “Did you see the broken headlight?” Of those asked about ‘a’ broken headlight, 7% reported seeing one, compared with 17% of people asked about ‘the’ broken headlight. This supports Loftus and Palmer’s findings as the study also changed the form of a question, which affected the witness’ response. Loftus and Palmer changed the verb ‘smashed’ and ‘hit’ to establish whether or not this would affect their answer. Loftus showed participants a series of pictures of a man stealing a red wallet from a woman’s bag. 98% later identified the colour correctly. When then being given a wrong description of the wallet as brown, participants persisted in describing the wallet as red.

This refutes Loftus and Palmer’s findings as the participants actually continued to describe the wallet as red, even when told it was brown, unlike L & P’s findings who found that the majority of participants did alter their recall of glass due to the false post event information. Buckout conducted a study with 2000 participants. A 13 second film was shown on prime time TV. Later, an identity parade was shown on TV and viewers were invited to phone in their choice of suspect. Only 14% got it correct. This supports Loftus and Palmer’s findings as it agrees that our memory representation can be altered, even in a short amount of time. Buckout found that people’s memories did change, causing them to give incorrect answers. Similarly L & P found that participant’s memories could be altered, but with leading questions.

However, Yuile and Cutshall’s study does not support L & P’s findings. They interviewed 13 people who had witness an armed robbery. The interviews took place four months after the robbery and included two misleading questions. The interviewees were not influenced by the post-event information in the misleading questions, and gave accounts that were very similar to those initial witness statements. This does not support Loftus and Palmer as the witness’ memory representation was not altered and their responses were not influenced or biased by the misleading questions. Whereas L & P found that participants were in fact influenced by their leading questions, causing their memories to be altered.

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