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The prevalence of co-witnesses and co-witness discussions in real eyewitnesses

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Several laboratory studies have shown that eyewitness discussions can negatively affect memory recall. The current study looked at the prevalence of multiple witnesses using real witnesses at a UK identification suite. We investigated the frequency of co-witness discussion, what the co-witnesses tended to discuss and whether there was an association between this information, and the outcome of the identification. Sixty witnesses at the Force Identification Unit in Brighton (UK) filled out a questionnaire following the identification procedure. Co-witnesses were reported by 88% of the sample, with the average number of co-witnesses being 4.02 (SD=6.52). In addition, 58% of the multiple witnesses had discussed the criminal event with at least one co-witness. The most common areas of discussion were 'general crime details' (52%) and 'suspect details' (39%). The implications of these findings are discussed.
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Keywords: co-witness discussion; eyewitness testimony; memory conformity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Psychology Department, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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