The effects of stress on eyewitness memory: a survey of memory experts and laypeople

Carey Marr, Henry Otgaar, Melanie Sauerland, Conny W. E. M. Quaedflieg, Lorraine Hope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

405 Downloads (Pure)


This survey examined lay and expert beliefs about statements concerning stress effects on (eyewitness) memory. Thirty-seven eyewitness memory experts, 36 fundamental memory experts, and 109 laypeople endorsed, opposed, or selected don’t know responses for a range of statements relating to the effects of stress at encoding and retrieval. We examined proportions in each group and differences between groups (eyewitness memory experts vs. fundamental memory experts; experts vs. laypeople) for endorsements (agree vs. disagree) and selections (don’t know vs. agree/disagree). High proportions of experts from both research fields agreed that very high levels of stress impair the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. A majority of fundamental experts, but not eyewitness experts, endorsed the idea that stress experienced during encoding can enhance memory. Responses to statements regarding moderating factors such as stressor severity and detail type provided further insight into this discrepancy. Eyewitness memory experts more frequently selected the don’t know option for neuroscientific statements regarding stress effects on memory than fundamental memory experts, although don’t know selections were substantial among both expert groups. Laypeople’s responses to eight of the statements differed statistically from expert answers on topics such as memory in children, in professionals such as police officers, for faces and short crimes, and the existence of repression, providing insight into possible ‘commonsense’ beliefs on stress effects on memory. Our findings capture the current state of knowledge about stress effects on memory as reflected by sample of experts and laypeople, and highlight areas where further research and consensus would be valuable.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalMemory and Cognition
Early online date25 Nov 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 25 Nov 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of stress on eyewitness memory: a survey of memory experts and laypeople'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this