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Older Adults May Be Unreliable Eyewitnesses

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 11:40:18 -0500
Fwd Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 11:40:18 -0500
Subject: Older Adults May Be Unreliable Eyewitnesses




Source: PhysOrg.Com - Douglas, Isle Of Man, British Isles

http://www.physorg.com/news91291760.html

02-21-07


Older Adults May Be Unreliable Eyewitnesses Study Shows

A University of Virginia study suggests that older adults are
not only more inclined than younger adults to make errors in
recollecting details that have been suggested to them, but are
also more likely than younger people to have a very high level
of confidence in their recollections, even when wrong. The
finding has implications regarding the reliability of older
persons’ eyewitness testimonies in courtrooms.

The study, "I misremember it well: Why older adults are
unreliable eyewitnesses," is published in a recent issue of the
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. "There are potentially
significant practical implications to these results as confident
but mistaken eyewitness testimony may be the largest cause of
wrongful convictions in the United States," said Chad Dodson,
the study’s lead researcher and an assistant professor of
psychology at the University of Virginia. "Given that older
adults will constitute an increasing proportion of the U.S.
population, there may be a corresponding increase in the
occurrence of wrongful convictions based on the testimony of
highly confident but mistaken eyewitnesses."

Dodson and U.Va. graduate student Lacy Krueger studied
"suggestibility errors," instances where people come to believe
that a particular event occurred, when in fact, the event was
merely suggested to them and did not actually occur.

They found through a series of experiments that when younger and
older adults were matched on their overall memory for
experienced events, both groups showed comparable rates of
suggestibility errors in which they claimed to have seen events
in a video that had been suggested in a subsequent
questionnaire. However, older adults were "alarmingly" likely to
commit these suggestibility errors when they were most confident
about the correctness of their response. Younger people were
more likely to commit these errors when they were uncertain
about the accuracy of their response.

Previous studies by other investigators have shown that older
adults are more likely than younger people to "remember" events
that did not occur, and to misremember events that did occur.
The U.Va. study further suggest that this occurs because older
adults are more inclined to miscombine details of events, which
results in a high degree of confidence that they are remembering
these details accurately.

Participants in the study were shown a five-minute video clip
reenacting a burglary and police chase. They were then asked to
answer 24 yes/no questions about what they had witnessed in the
video. Eight of those questions referred to details that never
actually happened in the video, such as suggesting the presence
of a gun when in fact no gun ever appeared in the video itself.

Prior to completing the memory test, the participants were told
that some of the test questions would refer to details that had
not actually occurred in the video. They were asked to indicate
for each test question whether it had occurred in the video
only, in the questionnaire only, or neither. They were also
asked to judge the likely accuracy of their response,
essentially whether they were guessing or certain. It was here
that the confidence level, even when wrong, was much higher
among older adults than younger adults.

"This finding suggests that this is not simply a case of poorer
memory among older adults, but that there may be some other
mechanism leading to the high rate of confidence," Dodson said.
"We believe the high confidence comes from the detail that they
believe they remember. Because the detail seems sharp, they are
highly confident that they are correct in their recollection,
even when the recollection has been suggested to them rather
than actually witnessed. This pattern of behavior is
particularly worrisome, given the influence of eyewitness
confidence on jury decision making."

The older study participants were 60 to 80 years of age, while
the younger participants were college students. There were three
study groups: the older participants who all took the
questionnaire immediately after seeing the video, a young group
who also took the questionnaire immediately after seeing the
video, and a group of younger participants who answered the
questionnaire two days after seeing the video to replicate the
memory differences between older and younger adults.

Source: University of Virginia


[Thanks to Stuart Miller of http://uforeview.net/ for the lead]





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