Stress and Eyewitness Memory

Stress exerts complex effects on eyewitness memory. On the whole, it has a negative effect, but this can be quite variable depending on the level of stress and the aspect of the witnessed event that one is trying to remember. Stress operates similarly in affecting person recognition (i.e., lineup performance) and recall of event details.

The effects of stress on eyewitness memory and identification are of interest because of the fact that persons witnessing a crime, especially a violent crime, commonly (though not always) experience stress. “Stress” is itself a rather vague term that has been interpreted differently by various commentators, but generally, it can be taken to denote a negative emotional state associated with both physiological changes and a subjective set of cognitions. The physiological ...

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