Crime prevention is one of the main activities of law enforcement authorities that are an integral part of any state machine. These bodies accomplish the main governmental task, which is to preserve peace and protect citizens lives. For this reason, it remains one of the most important spheres of human activity nowadays. The issue becomes especially topical in terms of the unique importance of human life and the modern value system, which proclaims that any person should be protected.
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Unfortunately, there are still no measures to exclude crimes completely, and we could observe numerous breaches of the law. That is why efficient crime disclosure and fair punishment become extremely important. These factors could serve as a barrier to the further spread of criminality by demonstrating the inevitable character of retribution and the efficiency of the existing legal system. However, to assure the efficient functioning of authorities responsible for these aspects, it is crucial to exclude all factors that might deteriorate final results. For instance, eyewitness testimony still remains one of the main sources of information related to any case. Yet, its efficiency could suffer from different factors, and it is extremely important to minimize their negative impact.
In general, eyewitness testimony is an ancient way to gather data and to convict or to justify a suspect. The procedure has remained almost unchanged since ancient times. A person who possesses certain data related to an event and who is able to recognize the main suspect shares his/her vision and proves or refutes a certain hypothesis. At first gaze, the procedure seems simple and efficient at the same time.
However, there is a psychological aspect of the issue that should also be mentioned. The fact is that any crime or unusual event a person observes turns into great stress for him/her. For this reason, consciousness, as one of the main defense mechanisms, could disfigure the information or present it in another way. Moreover, there are also some contributing factors that could corrupt the final result and increase the probability of mistakes significantly. The investigation of these factors in terms of memory for eyewitness testimony could help to understand the main aspects of the issue and determine the reliability of eyewitness identification.
Main Area of Research
The sphere of memory is often touched by scientists when speaking about the eyewitness testimony and a person’s ability to provide credible information. They tend to outline several important factors. First, criminalists consider such testimony among the most fragile and unreliable methods to collect data and investigate the case (Clark, Benjamin, Wixted, Mickes, & Gronlund, 2015). In the suggested case study, Clark et al. (2015) state that a group of participants who were not informed about the essence of the experiment witnessed an artificial crime scene. They had to provide the most important information about it to investigators. Results demonstrated great divergences in their stories (Clark et al., 2015).
It proves the fact that testimonial evidence could hardly be considered the most efficient way to collect information as there are numerous factors that impact it. The comprehensive investigation of these factors could help to minimize the probability of mistake and create an approach that could be used to work with eyewitnesses and obtain only credible data.
It is also crucial to understand memory mechanisms and determine factors that impact it most of all. Traditionally, it provides a person with data related to past events. The same goes for the eyewitness testimony. However, the situation is complicated by the great level of responsibility, stress, personal attitude, etc. A person realizes his/her ability to impact the situation and might either consciously or unconsciously disfigure information.
Thus, there are several factors within the main area of research that should also be given special attention. Therefore, gender and age should be analyzed as these are important aspects that very often result in the corruption of data. In such a case, a person is not able to restore the chain of events and might fail to help. Yet, an eyewitness might also provide false data intentionally because of various motifs that could impact his/her consciousness and decision making.
The aspect of gender is crucial in any sphere of human activity as it determines the behavior, attitude, perception, etc. In accordance with modern statistics, men are more likely to obtain a guilty verdict than women (Lampinen, Neuschatz, & Cling, 2012). Moreover, in case the background is the same, men will definitely get severer sentence than women (Lampinen et al., 2012). Additionally, 97% of respondents will choose a man as a potential rapist even if there is no credible evidence to prove it. (Lampinen et al., 2012). These facts demonstrate the impact of gender and the existence of a biased attitude to men.
These also impact the eyewitness testimony and could result in data corruption. For this reason, the issue attracts the attention of numerous scientists. For instance, in his work, Areh (2011) states that even if a witness is not sure, he/she could accuse a person just because of his sexual identity. Furthermore, there are significant differences between men and women in their ability to share information. Areh (2011) states that “females are more reliable eyewitnesses than males” (p. 559).
Women also are more accurate describing persons and their appearance; however, men show better results in places depiction (Areh, 2011)..In the majority of cases, men show more confidence and could easily convince an investigator. However, it could be deceptive as data provided by males are still less accurate if to compare with the same events described by females (Areh, 2011). In this regard, gender becomes one of the main factors that impact the eyewitness testimony and precondition the credibility of stories offered by eyewitnesses.
As stated above, age is another significant factor that should be mentioned in terms of the credibility of data. Different researches demonstrate that with age, a person’s ability to remember certain things suffers (Resnick, 2014). Experiments show that elderly people have numerous problems with memorizing (Resnick, 2014). For this reason, it could be difficult for them to remember new information.
Moreover, the peculiarities of their brains increase the probability of mistakes and wrong data interpretation. In this regard, their stories could hardly be trusted completely (West & Stone, 2014). On the contrary, young people and children are inclined to overreacting (Resnick, 2014). They could also be impacted by the desire to demonstrate their great significance and participate in a trial. For this reason, the information could be wrong. Finally, there is a prejudiced attitude towards different age groups. For instance, juveniles are usually treated with a lenient attitude, which means less severe sentences for them (Resnick, 2014).
The number of guilty verdicts is also lower if to compare with adults (Resnick, 2014). Additionally, in a great number of cases, parents want to protect their children and create false stories. According to the suggested research, only 5% of parents are able to inform the authorities if their child is guilty (Resnick, 2014). Witnesses unwillingness to provide information that will be used against juveniles could be considered one of the factors that result in the above-mentioned statistics. In this regard, age remains the factor that could not be ignored because of its overwhelming impact on the eyewitness testimony.
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Altogether, the above-mentioned factors impact the eyewitness testimony greatly as they increase the probability of mistake and deteriorate the final outcomes. The majority of investigators of the issue agree that to mitigate the negative impact of these aspects, and a crime scene investigator should be ready to accept the low reliability of the testimony and use some additional sources to collect data (Wixted & Wells, 2017). Moreover, it is hardly possible to isolate each of these factors as they come together and have a great negative impact on the relevance of the information provided to authorities. That is why it is crucial to understand the impact they have on the process and be ready to act in an appropriate way.
Final Results and Testimony
Considering the information about these stressors, the preservation of credible final results becomes a complicated issue because of the high probability of mistake. Numerous witnesses of an accident could provide controversial information. However, it does not mean that they try to corrupt the outcomes. It just evidences the great negative effect age and gender might have on final results (Smalarz & Wells, 2015).
As stated above, testimony is one of the most fragile and unreliable methods to collect data and investigate the case. However, it is still used as a skilled investigator still could use the data to create a complete picture of the crime scene (Wells, Steblay, & Dysart, 2012). He/she uses even the false facts to juxtapose them with data that comes from other sources and make a certain conclusion.
Ways to Avoid Mistakes
In this regard, one should understand that it is impossible to exclude the impact of these factors completely. The issues of gender and age remain topical for any case as these are integral factors of any personality. Yet, it is still important to obtain credible information related to the issue. For this reason, an investigator should not rely on eyewitness testimony only as it remains doubtful. Moreover, it too depends on personal preferences, peculiarities of mentality, stereotypes, and other factors.
Altogether, eyewitness testimony remains popular in the legal sphere. It could provide an investigator with needed data and help him/her to obtain information about a suspect. At the same, the reliability of this approach is doubted. There are numerous factors that could disfigure conclusions and corrupt final results. Age and gender could be considered these factors. Their impact on the eyewitness testimony is obvious as a person is not able to distance himself/herself and remain objective. In conclusion, despite the mass use, eyewitness testimony remains an unreliable method that should not be used as the only way to collect data.
Areh, I. (2011). Gender-related differences in eyewitness testimony. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(5), 559-563. Web.
Clark, S., Benjamin, A., Wixted, J., Mickes, L., & Gronlund, S. (2015). Eyewitness identification and the accuracy of the criminal justice system. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2(1), 175-186. Web.
Lampinen, M., Neuschatz, J., & Cling, A. (2012). The psychology of eyewitness identification. London, UK: Psychology Press.
Resnick, M. (2014). When eyewitnesses misremember. The delicate balance between forensic investigation and memory evidence assessment. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 58(1), 539-543. Web.
Smalarz, L., & Wells, G. (2015). Contamination of eyewitness self-reports and the mistaken-identification problem. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24(2), 120-124. Web.
Wells, G., Steblay, N., & Dysart, J. (2012). Eyewitness identification reforms: Are suggestiveness-induced hits and guesses true hits? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(3), 264-271. Web.
West, R., & Stone, K. (2014). Age differences in eyewitness memory for a realistic event. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 69(3), 338-347. Web.
Wixted, J., & Wells, G. (2017). The relationship between eyewitness confidence and identification accuracy: A new synthesis. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 18(1), 10-65. Web.