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Limitations with the study included the sample range being too small. This means that it is difficult to make generalisations because 20 undergraduate students cannot possibly be representative of the sample population. In order to improve the experiment, a wider sample range could be used, including people from different age groups and ethnic backgrounds.
Another limitation was gender bias. The driver in the vignette was male which could have meant that male participants may have been more sympathetic to him when giving an estimation. If a female character had been used, the results may have been different. This could be improved by using two sample groups, both with female characters, but again with either the ‘smashed into’ condition or ‘bumped into’ condition.
The results of this and previous studies have a number of implications in today’s society. Loftus and Palmer’s work (1974), showed how changing a verb in a sentence, can alter eyewitness recall of a car accident. These findings have major implications for the Legal Justice Systems. In a study by Rattner (1988), a review of 205 cases of wrongful arrest showed that 52% of the cases were associated with mistaken eyewitness testimonies. These results highlighted the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.
Other studies have demonstrated that witnesses sometimes cannot attribute memory to its appropriate sources, or that they make source attribution errors. When witnesses get information from other witnesses and from the police, then their own recollection is likely to be contaminated (Fisher, 1995). This is yet further evidence suggesting that there should be less dependence on eyewitness testimony, and with the arrival of advanced gene technology, it is now possible to use alternative sources of evidence.
Carlson, N. R., Buskist, W., Martin, G. N. (2000). Psychology The Science of Behaviour, 266-267
Loftus, E. F. and Palmer, J. E. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: an example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 13, 585-589.
Fisher, R. P., (1995). Interviewing victims and witnesses of crime. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1(4), 732-764. Nisha Ghei Eyewitness Practical