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Alcohol, crime and memory. Intoxicated eyewitnesses delayed recall of a kidnapping.

Authors Angelica Hagsand
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Pär-Anders Granhag
Claudia Fahlke
Anna Söderpalm Gordh
Published in Svenska föreningen för Alkohol- och Drogforskning, konferens 8-9 November, Norrköping
Publication year 2012
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords alcohol, eyewitnesses, memory, recall
Subject categories Cognitive science, Psychology, Applied Psychology


Alcohol is involved in 50-70% of violent crimes in Sweden. Eyewitness memory is a valuable source in investigations and it is common that the police interview alcohol intoxicated eyewitnesses. There are few studies on how alcohol affects witness memory. This study investigated how different doses of alcohol affected eyewitness recall one week after witnessing a crime and potential sex differences. The participants (N = 126) were healthy adults and were randomly assigned to either a control group, 0.0 g/kg ethanol (N = 42), a lower alcohol dose group, 0.4 g/kg ethanol (N = 40), or a higher alcohol dose group, 0.7 g/kg ethanol (N = 44). After 15 minutes consumption in a laboratory, participants witnessed a film showing a kidnapping of a woman by two men. The witnesses were interviewed about the crime one week later in a sober state. Witnesses in the higher alcohol dose group recalled fewer details compared to witnesses in the lower alcohol dose group. The amount of alcohol consumed did not have an impact on accuracy. Women and men reached the same blood alcohol concentration and no sex differences were found in recall. Interestingly, although the witnesses in the high alcohol dose group reported less information, their testimony was as correct as the testimony given by witnesses in the control group and the lower alcohol dose group. Despite the interesting results, more studies are needed before recommendations to the legal system can be made.

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