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Stumbling down memory lane: When to interview alcohol-intoxicated eyewitnesses?

Conference contribution
Authors Angelica Hagsand
Emma Roos Af Hjelmsäter
Pär-Anders Granhag
Claudia Fahlke
Anna Söderpalm Gordh
Published in Conference of European Association of Psychology and Law (EAPL), 25th of June 2014, St. Petersburg, Russia
Publication year 2014
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords Alcohol, eyewitnesses, memory, recall
Subject categories Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology), Applied Psychology


Introduction. Many violent crimes are observed by alcohol intoxicated eyewitnesses, but there are only a few studies on how alcohol affects witness memory. Aim. The aim was to examine to what extent alcohol, time of interview (immediate vs. delayed) and recall trial (single vs. repeated) affect the completeness and accuracy of testimonies. Methods. Participants (N = 99) were randomly assigned to a 2 (Beverage: control vs. alcohol) x 2 (Recall: immediate and delayed vs. delayed only) mixed design. After a 15 minutes consumption time, a staged kidnapping on film was shown. Half of the participants (N = 48) were interviewed immediately and all (N = 99) had a one week delayed recall. Results. Overall, alcohol reduced the accuracy of the reports, but had no effect on the completeness of the testimonies. Regardless of intoxication level, the best recall performances were found when witnesses were interviewed immediately. Conclusions. The findings from this study indicates that intoxicated witnesses might report the same amount of details to the police, but be slightly less accurate compared to sober witnesses. More studies are needed to be conducted before recommendation to the legal system can be made.

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