The Effect of Misleading Co-Witness Information and Self-Esteem on the Accuracy of Eyewitness Memory

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The aim of this study was to examine the effect of social influence and misleading information on the accuracy of memory of a crime, and the role of self-esteem on conformity. Previous research has shown that memory is changeable. While self-esteem can be threatened by social groups, there is limited information about the role of self-esteem on conformity. This research area has major implications for the validity of eyewitness testimony. In this study, groups of participants completed a self-esteem scale, watched two videos of crimes and answered questions about them. For one of the crimes, all participants watched an identical video. For the other crime, one participant viewed an alternate video with different features (e.g., purse color). All participants verbally responded to questions about the video, ending with the target participant. The accuracy of this participant’s responses was recorded. I hypothesized that accuracy would be lower when participants watched the alternate video and received misleading information from the majority group, especially for participants. I used a repeated measures ANCOVA analysis to examine the relationship between misleading information and accuracy of recall with self-esteem as a covariate. There was no significant main effect of misleading information on accuracy, indicating that misleading information did not cause a reduction in accuracy. There was no significant interaction between misleading information and self-esteem, indicating that self-esteem did not have an effect on accuracy in either condition.
Thesis completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Alfred University Honors Program.
Honors thesis, Self-esteem, Memory, Social influence