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Methods of studying eyewitness memory

Chapter in book
Authors Nadja Schreiber Compo
Jonathan Vallano
Jillian Rivard
Angelica Hagsand
Michelle Pena
Christopher Altman
Published in Otani, H., & Schwartz, B. L. (Eds.), Handbook of Research Methods in Human Memory
ISBN 9781138217959
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication New York
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Language en
Keywords eyewitness memory, research methods
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Many reviews have focused on the variables that affect eyewitness memory (see Loftus, 2013; Wells & Olson, 2003), but few (if any) provide a detailed summary of the general methodologies employed in studies examining eyewitness memory. As such, the present chapter seeks to fill this void by describing and synthesizing the common methods employed when researching eyewitness memory for an event, along with providing recommendations for researchers and practitioners. As eyewitness memory is a broad term, our focus will be on eyewitness recall (i.e., the ability to describe a criminal event and/or perpetrator) rather than recognition (i.e., the ability to identify a perpetrator in a subsequent lineup or photo array (see Bruce and Lander, this volume). This chapter will also limit its discussion to adult eyewitness memory, as child eyewitness memory will be discussed elsewhere (see Machluf & Sellers, this volume). We will specifically focus on methods of studying memory of cooperative witnesses as opposed to suspects or non-cooperative witnesses who have a motivation to conceal information or to lie (i.e., in interrogation contexts; Bull, Valentine, & Williamson, 2009; Vallano & Schreiber Compo, 2015; Westera, Kebbell, & Milne, 2016). Finally, the present chapter will only tangentially touch upon the methodology of misinformation and suggestibility paradigms, which are covered by Otgaar (Otgaar, this volume) and focus on the study of spontaneously reported false information and the source-monitoring paradigms used to assess witnesses’ abilities to disentangle the various sources of their memories.

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