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Witnesses are often called on to provide information to criminal investigators. The police administer witness identification procedures to test whether witnesses identify the criminal suspect as the culprit. Identification accuracy (the witness’ ability to accurate discriminate guilty from innocent suspects) can be affected by the type of identification procedure used, the physical appearance of the fillers (i.e., distractors, or known innocent persons in the lineup) and other factors (e.g., witness age, witness alcohol intoxication). We examine the basic memory mechanisms underlying accurate and inaccurate identifications.
Witnesses are often under the influence of alcohol when they witness criminal events. How does this affect their memory accuracy? Does this affect their ability to give valid testimony and make accurate identifications? We have been investigating these questions, along with meta memory, or the monitoring and control decisions that witnesses may use when volunteering testimony.
We have been studying the impact of police procedures on the accuracy of rape victim statements. There is little to no guidance worldwide for how to interview sexual violence complainants, particularly if they were alcohol-intoxicated during the rape, which is quite common. We are particularly interested in the role of meta memory processes in the completeness and accuracy of rape complainant statements. We are developing models for how victims volunteer their testimony over the course of a police interview.
Our lab has been testing models of age-related memory performance in the criminal justice context, such as the maturation hypothesis, which proposes that discrimination accuracy improves with development. We also have been studying age-related decline in memory performance, and testing models of meta memory performance, such as during police lineups in which the police ask witnesses to evaluate their confidence that their memory is accurate.
Metacognitive beliefs about trauma memory are influential in the development of post traumatic stress symptoms. Our lab has been using the Trauma Film paradigm to investigate whether it is possible to train people to adopt healthier metacognitive beliefs to protect against the development of post trauma stress symptoms, and improve resilience.