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How reliable are eye witness memories?: Effects of retention interval, violence of act, and gender stereotypeson observers’ judgments of their own memory regarding witnessed act andperpetrator
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology. (Research group for forensic psychology)
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of (i) stimulus person’s gender, (ii) type of act (neutral or violent), and (iii) retention interval (short or long) on observers’ memory of a stimulus person. Participants were presented with one of two acts; neutral (walking around in a store) or violent (robbing a store). The retention interval was 10 minutes or 1-3 weeks. The dependent variables were questionnaire items concerning the participants' memory of (1) the stimulus person’s appearance and (2) the event, and (3) rating scales where the participants were asked to evaluate the stimulus person’s aggressiveness, insensitivity, and other personality traits as well as characteristics of the act. Results showed that when the act was violent, and a long RI was used, a female, but not a male, stimulus person was evaluated less harshly than with a short RI (enhancement of gender stereotype); a stimulus person was seen as behaving in a more masculine way when performing a violent rather than a neutral act; witnessing the violent act resulted in better self-rated memory of the stimulus person; and with increasing retention interval, the violent act was seen as less negative and the neutral act as more negative (regression toward the mean).

Keyword [en]
eye witness, perpetrator, gender, type of act, time, memory retrieval
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38658OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-38658DiVA: diva2:312273
Available from: 2010-04-23 Created: 2010-04-23 Last updated: 2010-04-23Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Justice needs a blindfold: Effects of defendants’ gender and attractiveness on judicial evaluation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Justice needs a blindfold: Effects of defendants’ gender and attractiveness on judicial evaluation
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Gender and appearance affect our judgments regarding an individual’s personality, profession, and morality, and create a reference frame within which to act toward that person. The main question of the present thesis is whether these kinds of stereotypical conceptions have implications for the judicial process: how professionals within the judicial process evaluate and judge a defendant, and how and what eyewitnesses remember. Expressed in other words: Is justice blind or do gender and appearances affect the treatment we receive in a judicial process?

The main purpose of the present thesis was to study the effects of gender and attractiveness on evaluations of defendants accused of crimes of varying seriousness and type. The second theme was to study under what circumstances these effects are particularly strong; emotionality, retention interval, as well as gender and profession of evaluators, were controlled for.

Study 1 aimed at investigating “pure” gender and attractiveness effects, with psychology students as participants. Study II added the variable of emotionality, as well as six groups of evaluators. Emotionality was studied by including emotional photographs of crime victim injury as well as two levels of vividness in the written description the evaluator was to read. The evaluators were professionals working within the judicial process in Sweden–judges, jury members, counsels for the defence, prosecutors, and police officers–as well as law students. Study 1 showed that a male defendant was evaluated more negatively than a female. Study II showed two main tendencies: (i) “same-sex penalty effect”: Sentencing evaluators (judges, jurors) evaluated a defendant of their own gender more harshly than one of the opposite gender; (ii) “male penalty effect”: Nonsentencing evaluators (police officers, counsels for the defence, prosecutors, and law students) evaluated and judged a male defendant more harshly than a female. Study III focused on exploring effects of violence (emotionality) and retention interval in the context of gender differences to investigate under which circumstances gender differences might be especially strengthened. Violence was manipulated using two acts: one neutral (walking in a store) and one violent (robbing the same store). Retention interval was of two lengths: 10 minutes and 1-3 weeks. Results revealed a gender-stereotype-enhancement effect, in which the evaluator evaluated the male defendant more harshly with the longer retention interval as well as in the violent act condition. The results of the present studies may have practical implications for the functioning of the judicial process; on the eyewitness hearing level (Study III) as well as on the evidence evaluation-, guilt-, and punishment assessment levels (Studies I and II).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2010. 64 p.
Keyword
stereotype, gender, appearance, attractiveness, emotionality, violence, vividness, eye witness, memory
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-38639 (URN)978-91-7447-078-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-05-21, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati hagväg 8, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.Available from: 2010-04-28 Created: 2010-04-22 Last updated: 2011-05-25Bibliographically approved

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