6.3.3 – Criminological Contemporary Study – Valentine and Mesout (2009)

Description

Aim

To investigate whether high stress can reduce a person’s ability to recall information from an event and identify a perpetrator.

Procedure

Opportunity sample  of 56 visitors to the London Dungeon (29 female, 27 male)

They wore a heart rate monitor throughout their visit.

When they were in the dungeon, a ‘scary person’ stepped out infront of them

Afterwards, they were told the purpose and they gained informed consent, and allowed to withdraw. They then completed a questionnaire to find out their state and trait anxiety levels. Additionally, they were asked to describe the scary person without guessing things they didn’t know.

After this, they were shown a 9-person line up and asked to identify the scary person. They were told that the scary person may or may not be in the lineup and were asked to say if they couldn’t identify the person. They also noted their confidence, as a percentage, that the person they selected was the scary person.

Results

Valentine and Mesout found…

  • Females had a higher state anxiety in the dungeon (52.8 vs 45.3)
  • No difference in trait anxiety between males and females.
  • Those with lower state anxiety recalled more correct information about the scary person.
  • 17% of those who scored above the median state anxiety correctly idenfitied the scary person.

Conclusion

  • High anxiety reduces the accuracy of eyewitnesses in idenfying perpetrators.
  • Females show a higher level of anxiety in stressful situations

Evaluation

Generalisability

(-) Opportunity sample of people who visited the London Dungeon, so they’re more likely to deal with stressful situations better as they were willingly putting themselves in this situation.

Reliability

(+) Good use of controls –> Same questionnaire, lineup, scary person, etc.

Applications

(+) Eyewitness testimony. Too much stress when witnessing an event means that the information is probably less accurate.

Validity

(+) Ecological validity –> Field experiment and therefore in a natural setting.

(+) Validated the questionnaire on office workers to make sure they did measure anxiety –> Higher validity.

(+) Does consider individual differences. By measuring trait anxiety aswell, the state anxiety can be compared to the trait anxiety.

Ethics

(+) Made sure to get informed consent before continuing and also informed them of their right to withdraw, kept their data confidential and anonymous.