Multiple perpetrator crime: examining the impact of cognitive load during memory retrieval on eyewitness testimony during multiple perpetrator crimes
Workman, Tenielle A.
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Eyewitnesses are a very important part of police investigations and they play a prominent role in the criminal justice system. Judges and jurors hold what eyewitnesses say in high regard and, for this reason, eyewitness identifications have a large impact on who gets charged with a crime. There are, however, several factors that can hinder the eyewitness’ ability to make an accurate identification. Psychological research shows that eyewitness identifications are often erroneous and problematic. Most of the current research investigating facial recognition and identification, addresses only the recognition of a single person. This is problematic because most real- world crime situations involve multiple perpetrators. Furthermore, the effects of cognitive load during memory retrieval during multiple perpetrator crimes are understudied. It is known that cognitive load effects the encoding of memories of multiple perpetrators, but such effects on memory retrieval are unknown. Thus, this study sought to examine the effects of cognitive load during memory retrieval on eyewitness testimony during multiple perpetrator crime. Further, it hoped to determine if the human brain becomes overloaded when there are too many factors impacting memory retrieval. Participants were recruited from introductory psychology classes, where they watched a brief video containing four target faces. Following a twenty- minute delay, participants were given a lineup identification task, with cognitive load manipulated throughout each condition. Results demonstrated that cognitive load did not influence lineup selection, however target presence was unsurprisingly an impactful factor. In target present lineups, the suspect was more likely to be selected, and in target absent lineups, the lineup was more likely to be rejected.