1 Loftus has been particularly concerned with how subsequent information can affect an eyewitness’s account
of an event. Her main focus has been on the influence of (mis)leading information in terms of both visual
imagery and wording of questions in relation to eyewitness testimony. Loftus’ findings seem to indicate that
memory for an event that has been witnessed is highly flexible. If someone is exposed to new information
during the interval between witnessing the event and recalling it, this new information may have marked
effects on what they recall. The original memory can be modified, changed or supplemented.
2 Aim: to see if a leading question would distort a persons eyewitness account
3 Procedure: Forty-five students Under five conditions in groups of 9 Laboratory Experiment They were shown
video clips of car accidents then asked to fill a questionnaire with a series of questions. Including the critical
question “About how fast were the cars going when they (hit/smashed/collided/bumped/contacted ) each
other?” Thus, the IV was the wording of the question and the DV was the speed reported by the participants.
A week after the participants saw the slides they were asked “Did you see any broken glass?” There was no
broken glass shown in the slides.
4 Findings: The estimated speed was affected by the verb used. Participants in the group "smashed" gave
higher estimate speeds than the other groups. The participants in the “smashed” condition reported the
highest speeds, followed by “collided”, “bumped”, “hit”, and “contacted” in descending order. When people
were asked a week after viewing the film whether they saw any broken glass at the scene (there was none),
people in the smashed group were more likely to say yes. Therefore, a leading question that encouraged
them to remember the vehicles going faster also encouraged them to remember that they saw non-existent
5 Conclusions: This research suggests that memory is easily distorted by questioning technique and
information acquired after the event can merge with original memory causing inaccurate recall or
reconstructive memory. The addition of false details to a memory of an event is referred to as confabulation.
This has important implications for the questions used in police interviews of eyewitnesses.
6 Criticisms: The research lacks mundane realism, as the video clip does not have the same emotional impact
as witnessing a real-life accident and so the research lacks ecological validity.