Psychological factors in witness evidence

Coxon and Valentine are aware that the participants’ level of education may have had some bearing on results: “the present study may have exaggerated the advantage shown by young adults” (p14). Coxon and Valentine’s findings were inconsistent, however, with those of Bekerian and Bowers (1983, cited in Coxon & Valentine, 1997), who found that questioning participants with questions preserving the order of occurrences in the original event minimised the effects of misleading information.

Their findings, that post event information does not make participants any more unsure than they normally would be about their memories of an event is an important one, and contributes to the store of knowledge on this topic. Likewise, Coxon and Valentine mentioned that their findings showed that children can resist post event suggestions concerning some event information equally as well as adults. This is important research for legal team defending children.

It is unfortunate, however, that we are not shown the results which were used to back up this claim, and what is more obvious from the descriptive statistics given is that the credibility of the child witness is low. In terms of ethics, there was no mention of any ethical guidelines followed in this study or any mentioned in the debriefing given to participants. There was no description or information given on any ethical actions taken to protect the children.

Likewise, there are ethical issues to be raised concerning the misuse of misleading questions during the study and the damage caused to participants’ self-esteem when they realise that they have been deceived. The ecological validity of the study may be called into doubt. While the use of a video may have been chosen to spare real victims the trauma of being used for research, it is difficult to judge the merits of the events portrayed in the video due to the lack of information.

It is reasonable to assume that the stimulus may have been too far removed from the reality of an actual event. The generalizability of the study was positive insofar as the findings could be applied to the larger population involved in legal proceedings where eyewitness testimony is required. The only downside is that it may be used, not only by the prosecution, but also be defence lawyers to discredit the testimony of children.

So to conclude, we may say that Coxon and Valentine’s experiment well reflected the type of research being carried out in this area and used other researchers’ work as a base for her study. What was written was well presented and enabled the reader to follow the study, and lead to new discoveries in the area of witness evidence. It did, however, have many flaws and omissions, most notably the lack of information given about the materials used and any ethical guidelines followed.

Nevertheless, it may be considered as a good starting place for discussion and further research in the area of witness evidence.


Coxon, P. and Valentine, T. (1997). ‘The effects of the age of eyewitnesses on the accuracy and suggestibility of their testimony’ on Book 3 Offprints CD-Rom (2002), DSE212 Exploring Psychology, Milton Keynes, The Open University. Westcott, H. and Brace, N. (2002) ‘Psychological factors in witness evidence and identification’ in Applying Psychology, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

This is a critical review of Pamela Coxon and Tim Valentine’s (1997) study on “The effects of the age of eyewitnesses on the accuracy and suggestibility of their testimony”. I intend to critically evaluate the research carried out by Coxon …

With regard to the extent of psychological research which supports the view concerning the unreliability of eyewitness testimony, a number of judgements can be made. Firstly, one can refer to a study carried out by Loftus and Palmer in 1974, …

In the contemporary world, certain factors have encouraged the adoption of evidence-based practice in the medical field. These factors have directly or indirectly promoted the use of EBHC . One contributing factor to this is the current availability of more …

The current research assessed the influence of DNA evidence on beliefs about the guilt of a parent accused of sexually abusing his or her daughter. Participants read scenarios about a custody hearing where a daughter accused her father (or mother) …

David from Healtheappointments:

Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out