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Gender Differences in Eyewitness Accounts

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Gender Differences in Eyewitness Accounts



In this study, we examined differences between males and females in the accuracy of their eyewitness accounts. The effects of gender will be explored. Thirty-seven college age students from Southern Connecticut State University were involved in eye witnessing an act of stealing by two perpetrators. The eyewitnesses were then asked to describe the characteristics of the perpetrators in two questionnaires. It was hypothesized that female eyewitnesses will give a better description then males eyewitnesses. It was also hypothesized that females generally pay more attention than males and this will lead to females having a better accountability of the perpetrators. The females and males were asked to describe the perpetrators after the crime was committed. The first questionnaire consisted of two open-ended questions. The second questionnaire consisted of 9 multiple choice questions. Although there was a difference in the depth and accountability of the eyewitness descriptions between females and males, there was not a significant difference. These implications could be used in real life jury situations.

The study by Fashing, Ask, and Granhag (2004) focused on the validity of the eyewitnesses' descriptions of perpetrators in a bank robbery. Their theory was that bank tellers would give a complete and accurate description of the offender over the customers in bank descriptions of the offender. There would be a positive relationship between the length of the crime and the depth and accuracy of the description. They hypothesized that robberies involving firearms would receive less accurate descriptions versus robberies involving a knife. Also the more offenders that were involved in the robbery would decrease the accuracy of the descriptions. And finally, the delay of the witnesses' reports would be negatively related to the completeness and accuracy of those reports.

The results of their study showed the witnesses to be accurate in their descriptions. In describing the attributes of the perpetrator some witnesses received perfect accuracy (100%) and others received only (20%). They found there to be no relationship between the bank tellers giving better descriptions than the witnesses. And the use of a firearm did provide a less accurate description by both the witnesses and the bank tellers than use of a knife. As for the number of perpetrators involved in the robbery, the larger the number perpetrators was negatively correlated to the number of details recalled by the witnesses and bank tellers had to remember details, and was positively correlated to the quality of the description when they had to recall the descriptions. Finally, the length of time after the crime and the completeness was positively related to the details, and negatively correlated to basic features.

Yarmey's (2004)study explored the main effect of men's and women's awareness of their involvement in a field experiment on the accuracy of eyewitness recall and photo identification. Two hundred fifty-five men and 375 women ranging from ages 18 to 10 years participated in this study. They were randomly assigned to one of the treatment conditions providing that each group had an equal number of old versus young and men versus women. Yarmey used two 21 year old females as the targets; they wore a disguise of dark sunglasses and a baseball cap. The men and women were approached in a public place by one of the targets and asked for either directions or assistance in finding a piece of lost jewelry. The target remained 4 feet away from the participants and the interaction lasted for only 15 seconds. Two minutes after the interaction the participants were approached by another female, playing the role of an investigator who asked them to participate in a study on perception and memory. Half of the subjects in each treatment group were tested right after the interaction and the other half four hours after.

Yarmey (2004) found there to be no significant effects in the recall of physical and clothing characteristics. The color of the hair and footwear of the target was significantly recalled better on the delayed test versus the immediate test. Whereas, complexion and height were recalled better on the immediate test versus the delayed test.

The study by Semmler and Keast (2004) investigated the location of time boundary and the accuracy rates for response times faster versus slower then the identification boundary. They found that 3,213 eyewitnesses' accurate identifications from lineups are made faster than inaccurate identifications. They did not find support for the "10-12-second rule" in which the lineup identifications faster than the 10-12 seconds is at threshold level of discrimination between inaccurate and accurate descriptions. The time frame that showed to be most discriminatory was varied from 5 seconds to 29 seconds. They found that correct identifications were found to be made significantly faster than incorrect positive identifications. There was no significant difference between response time for correct non-choosers and incorrect non-choosers.

Semmler, Brewer and Wells (2004) conducted a study that hypothesized that post identification feedback would inflate eyewitness confidence when the witnesses received clear instruction stating that the offender may not be present in the lineup. Also they examined if confidence inflation would occur for all the possible identification response categories in both target-absent and target present situations. They found a high proportion to reject the target absent lineup and the confidence rating produced a significant feedback main effect.

In a study by Butts, Mixon, Mulekar, & Bringmann (1995) they examined gender differences in eyewitness testimony abilities. They examined the eyewitnesses behavior when they were shown two stimulus presentations containing different content and at different complexities. Twenty males and 20 females at college level were shown 2 pictures for one minute per picture and then asked a series of factual and leading questions.

They found there to be no significant difference between



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