Evidence of alcohol induced weapon focus in eyewitness memory

Alistair J. Harvey*, Alistair Sekulla

*Corresponding author for this work

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We examined the effects of acute alcohol on eyewitness memory for a simulated armed robbery under laboratory conditions. Alcohol and placebo participants viewed a slide series showing a target male taking a laptop from a helpdesk assistant, either on loan or at gunpoint. Following a brief retention period, participants responded to “central” multiple-choice questions, about the target’s actions, face and clothing, and “peripheral” questions about other scene features. Alcohol participants shown the no-weapon scene displayed poorer peripheral memory than placebo controls, though alcohol did not impair peripheral memory among weapon scene viewers. Alcohol participants also showed a weapon focus effect, providing less accurate responses to central questions related to details about the target male than no-weapon controls. These findings are consistent with alcohol myopia theory and suggest intoxicated eyewitnesses may be more susceptible to weapon focus than sober counterparts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1263-1272
Number of pages10
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date29 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2021


  • alcohol intoxication
  • weapon focus
  • eyewitness memory
  • recognition


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