Beyond WEIRD witnesses
: eyewitness memory reports in cross-cultural settings

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Investigators will inevitably interview eyewitnesses from different cultures. Because eyewitnesses are not immune to the influences of their respective cultures, they may bring culturally determined reporting norms into the forensic setting. This thesis set out to determine whether there are cultural differences in eyewitness memory reports. Four experiments were conducted to examine this overarching aim. Based on the individualistic-collectivistic cultural framework, mock witnesses were sampled from cultures representing the individualistic-collectivistic cultural orientations. In Experiment 1, cultural differences in the content and nature of eyewitness memory reports was examined. Mock witnesses (N = 200) were sampled from Ghana and The Netherlands, representing collectivist and individualist cultures respectively, and provided memory reports about a stimuli event. Experiment 1 provided initial evidence of cultural differences in eyewitness memory reports such that individualistic mock witnesses reported more details about the event than did collectivistic culture mock witnesses. Experiment 2 examined whether migrating and adapting in a new cultural environment shapes the content and nature of eyewitness memory reports. Again, using a mock witness paradigm, participants (N = 107) were sub-Saharan African migrants in Western Europe and sub-Saharan Africans living in Africa. The results of Experiment 2 provided further evidence in support of the role of culture in shaping eyewitness memory reports, with sub-Saharan African migrants in Western Europe providing more elaborate details than did sub-Saharan Africans living in Africa. In Experiment 3, the role of culture in the susceptibility to misinformation effect was examined. Using a misinformation paradigm, participants (N = 127) from Ghana and the United Kingdom provided memory reports about a witnessed event. The results suggest that culture plays a role in the extent of the misinformation effect such that mock-witnesses with collectivistic cultural background endorsed misleading details more than mock witnesses with an individualistic cultural background. The final experiment conducted for this programme of research, Experiment 4, examined whether cultural differences in relating with authority figures play any role in the reports provided by eyewitnesses. Participants (N = 115) sampled from Ghana and the Netherlands provided memory reports either in an authority or a non-authority witness reporting context. The results of Experiment 4 suggest that interviewer authority impacts eyewitness memory reports differently across different cultures, such that eyewitness memory reports of mock witnesses with individualistic cultural background was enhanced when reporting in an authority context, whereas eyewitness memory reports of mock witnesses with collectivistic cultural background was impeded when reporting in an authority context. In consolidating the findings across experiments, the methodological challenges in conducting cross-cultural applied research are examined along with the implications of the findings for the conduct of investigative interviews in cross-cultural settings.
Date of Award2020
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLorraine Hope (Supervisor), James Alexander Ost (Supervisor), Robert Horselenberg (Supervisor) & Peter van Koppen (Supervisor)

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