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Cultural Factors in the Recall of a Witnessed Event

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Can cultural factors influence testimony? To explore this hypothesis, groups of Spanish and English students ( n = 48 per group) observed successively two films showing events specific to Spain (a romeria ) and England (a village fete) before giving free recall and a verbal recognition test that contained lures consistent and inconsistent with cultural expectations. In addition, half the subjects were instructed to adopt the role of an observer while the remainder played the role of a participant. Significant interactions between cultural background and type of event reported were found for both recall and recognition. Contrary to expectation (i) recall accuracy was greater for the event that was not from the subject's own country (ii) recall errors were greater for the event from the subject's own country. In line with expectation, recognition accuracy was high for the event from the subject's own country. Results are discussed in terms of the operation of schemabased theories of recall and Johnson's reality-monitoring approach. The practical implications of the current findings for the interviewing of witnesses are briefly discussed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 1997

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