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Co-witnesses talk: A survey of eyewitness discussion

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The objective of this study was to obtain a quantitative measure of the discussion behaviour of real eyewitnesses. Undergraduate psychology students were given a questionnaire to determine if they had witnessed a serious event. Results from the questionnaire showed that the majority of respondents had witnessed a serious event at some point in their lives, and the majority of witnesses were not alone when they observed the event. Respondents who had experienced a serious event for which there was more than one witness present were invited to fill out a follow-up questionnaire. The follow-up study showed that when there is a co-witness present, most people (86%) report discussing the event with the co-witness. This is potentially problematic if the witnesses are contaminating one another's memories of the event. The results are discussed in terms of psychological research and policy implications.
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Keywords: Eyewitness memory; co-witness; discussion; memory conformity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Publication date: 01 April 2006

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