Evidence of alcohol induced weapon focus in eyewitness memory

Alistair J. Harvey*, Alistair Sekulla

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

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
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 7 Jun 2021

Keywords

  • alcohol intoxication
  • weapon focus
  • eyewitness memory
  • recognition

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