A critical review Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling 2013 volume 10, Issue 1, pages 57-70 Word count: 3347 As the old adage goes ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’. Often for investigating officers, eye witness testimony and what is seen, is heavily relied on in order to prosecute crimes (Wells and Olsen, 2003). As such eye witness testimony and memory has become one of the most researched areas in Cognitive Psychology.
What can be quite disconcerting is that from the research conducted into this area, the consensus seems to be that eyewitness testimony is unreliable due to many different factors. One of the most familiar being the Loft’s and Palmer (1974) classic study into misleading questions, showing that by changing Just one word can generate a deferent answer and can even trigger additional yet false information. But what about crimes in which the offender cannot be seen, such as crimes committed in poor light or the offender being masked, or even crimes involving phone calls like ransom calls, bomb threats and obscene messages.
Earthiness testimony would then come into play. This on the other hand, has limited research focus despite The Devils Committee (1976) stating that ‘research should proceed as rapidly as possible Into the practicality of voice parades’ (Clifford, 1983). Harmer (1994) highlighted that airworthiness have been used in English courts since the 17th century, but rather than being based on empirical research and sound scientific evidence, earthiness testimony seems to be accepted more on the basis of Instinct and common knowledge.
Unfortunately from the sparse research that there Is, there does seem to be many problems with this type of testimony. One example was explored by Gloves and Harmer (1980), who found that preparation plays a key role In vocal memory. The study found that those who knew they would be given a recognition test for voices heard, performed better than those who were unprepared. Unfortunately witnesses are not always aware they are going to witness a crime so cannot prepare themselves and therefore Improve their capacity for remembering voices In real life situations.
Another area that is thought to have an effect on voice memory is that of time owing to be some time delay between witnessing the crime and providing evidence. Therefore we need to know if earthiness testimony is reliable enough after a time delay to be admissible into court. This could have implications in many cases as incorrect Judgments may be made on the back of faulty evidence being heard. Previous research has shown that there is no difference in a time delay of one week or 8 weeks for identification accuracy (Shortly, Jansen, van Maelstroms & Brooders, 2006).
From this it can be concluded that earthiness testimony from a line-up inducted up to 8 weeks after the crime, would be Just as accurate as being done 1 week later, however the accuracy sits at Just 24%. It could be argued that this is not accurate enough to be reliable as witness testimony. Another article that looks into this is “Angry Voices from the Past and Present: Effects on Adults’ and Children’s Earthiness Memory’ by Lisa –human, Enders Eriksson and Pr Graham (2013). This will be looked at in more detail with both the strengths and weaknesses of the article being considered.
The conclusions and implications will be evaluated as to whether his piece or research does offer relevant insights to a currently limited area of study. This article was published in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling and does seem to fit in well with the editorial policy. While this particular journal has a fairly low impact factor of 0. 722, it is still a relatively new Journal being only 10 years old. The Journal would be of particular interest to those in the legal system, such as the police, solicitors, intermediaries etc. S the focus is behavior relating to criminal and civil investigations whether it be interviews, decision making r expert evidence to name Just a few (“walleyed,” n. D. ). It is therefore of importance to have relevant and contemporary research to ensure that the criminal Justice system conducts itself in a balanced and impartial way. After all in the English and Welsh Judiciary system the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Using the most appropriate techniques that have empirical research to support its use will ensure that Justice is carried out correctly.
The authors set out to investigate what, if any, conditions would make the accuracy of aural recall more reliable on not only adults, but children also, since hillier from a young age can provide a testimony. For instance, in relation to child abuse cases, as such cases could occur at night in the dark, therefore the child’s earthiness testimony would be of importance as they would not be able to see to confirm who it was. –human et al (2013) investigated the effects of time delay (immediate or 2 weeks), tone of voice (normal or angry) and type of interview (global questions or scale ratings) in two separate age groups (11-13 or adults).
It would be virtually impossible to conduct a study on every possible effect on earthiness testimony in one go. Millennium et al (2011) highlighted some factors that affect earthiness testimony such as accent, voice disguise and irreconcilability (Philippic, Chairman, Bull, & Fri.., 2007; Orchard & Harmer, 1995; Philippic, Chairman, Fri.. & Bull, 2008). However it is stated that as far as –human et al (2013) were aware no research had been done on the “effects of tone of voice on child witnesses”, showing that this particular study is moving research forward and opening up an area for development.
After all it is important we keep in mind children as witnesses and conduct investigations into how to get the most accurate information possible from insistence. Due to there being 4 factors there was a large theoretical framework, much of it relevant and from 2000 onwards. However in some areas it felt like a list of studies that had Just been read, rather than considered for their value to the subject, but there were certain aspects that the authors did develop. For example children’s’ cognitive development, the effects and possible explanations are clearly stated with research to bring it into context for investigations.
On the other hand, for the effects of time delay the authors wrote “other studies, however, have shown that voice identification accuracy declines over time (Clifford, 1980)”. There does seem to be a serious lack of research into aural memory, and the research there is, is done on short term memory which is maybe not applicable since this is discussing accuracy declining over time. However a line explaining that we do not understand this particular area of memory at this present time would help the flow of the article. Another problem with the background reading was more specific.
It was postulated that low accuracy levels for tone of voice and time delay on voice recognition may be due to poor encoding. This was not embellished upon but the authors added that they intended to strengthen encoding by using two different types of interview. This has a very distinct issue. First of all it is basic psychology that encoding in relation to memory, regardless of the type, is experiencing the memory. So in relation to airworthiness, encoding would occur at the time of the crime. When conducting an interview, retrieval would occur.
So the type of interview would therefore not strengthen the encoding, if it is going to have an effect it will facilitate retrieval. There is already research that emphasizes this particular point from Legged, Grossman & Peppier (1984). Three experiments were conducted, the first two experiments heard voices only but the third and final experiment heard voices and had slides of faces also. All experiments then had a recognition test. They had all heard the same voices but those who had seen the faces, had improved recognition.
Legged et al (1984) indicated that failure in the retrieval stage of memory must be playing a part since they could associate the voice with the face, so a memory must have been encoded in some way for the voice to be correctly identified. However it should be noted that this s from 1984 and 20 years on, as stated earlier the research still has not moved forward to successfully explain aural encoding. While it is true that earthiness testimony and voice memory is an understudied area, it is unrealistic to try and look into all effects and issues in one study. –human et al (2013) set out six different aims. A 2x2x2x2 factorial design and then 2 exploratory questions. They are set out clearly enough in the introduction but sadly focusing on this many factors has allowed the research to become complicated and fairly difficult to follow as there are so many different elements that need to be concentrated on ND considered. The authors do state that there had been no research conducted on effects of tone of voice on young children.
So in order to streamline the article but keep it relevant and forward thinking, it could have been worth conducting the study using Just children as participants. On the back of this the same could be said for the removal of the global interviews. There are a number of problems with this particular aspect of the article. –human et al (2013) are fairly contradictory on this subject. In the discussion it is said angry, stressed and aroused) and may therefore be of limited value”. However in the call ratings interview, one of the six scale was emotion rated between “friendly – angry’.
It begs the question why is the term “angry’ fine to be used on a scale when given to the participants but not when thought of in free recall. Angry is also used frequently throughout the article to describe one of the recordings. If the word had such little value in relation to voice descriptions surely the authors would be able to find a more suitable alternative. –human, Eriksson & Graham (2012) argued that situation dependent descriptions are only applicable to the crime and would not sound like that in another context I. . In a line up.
This is a possible explanation for findings that participants who described the voice provided a false identification. However the authors do not speculate on this. Following on from this is, it is argued in the literature review that it is not easy to describe voices during free recall therefore we give poor descriptions of voice. Research suggests that this is due to us not being accustomed to describing voices so we are unfamiliar with the characteristics and therefore unable to articulate them leading us to poor descriptions (Harmer, 2003; –human et al, 2012; Brooders & Retrieve, 1995).
It is therefore reasonable to suggest that since even the authors own previous research indicates that voice descriptions are not beneficial for gaining information, it would be sensible to remove the interview factor all together and maybe focus on this in a separate piece of research where the subject can be expanded and developed in order to understand the theoretical underpinnings and develop interview techniques relating to aural memory. Moving on, the method section of the report seems to be a mixed bag. The participants section was a well thought out and thorough segment.
All descriptive statistics were provided for both adult and children populations, giving total participant, gender splits and mean age with the standard deviation from mean also. The authors display an understanding for aspects of ethical considerations as consent was highlighted as parental consent was gained for children. However this does not advise if this was informed consent or Just consent to participate. The main point of concern was the participants were paid and this issue was not stressed in accordance with ethical considerations.
It is a point of view that payments can lead to region and participants will do as is expected of them (Head, 2009). While this is subjective to each researcher, it would still be worth mentioning to show the authors have a certain respect towards ethical considerations, be them in line with their own views or not. However there is a relatively large flaw with the materials section. This section goes into much detail on how both the “perpetrator” and the foils for the investigation were selected. The authors give details on the range of similarity of the voices and information on the line-ups.
This section however fails to give any absentia information on the vital part of the materials, the voice recordings, with only two points made. The first referring to it as an “incriminating” call and the second stating the “chosen mock perpetrator recorded the exact same call in two versions”. Other than telling the reader that the conversation in some way involves a crime this description gives no indication of the full content of the call. While a full main points or the general idea of the call. Stating an “incriminating” call is Just too brief to be of use for replication purposes.
On the other hand the description of both of the interviews was very thorough. For the global questions it provided all six questions that were asked to participants and the scale interview give each rating with the high and low points noted, for example “Timbre (light-dark ). Details were provided of the transcription processes and cross coding to assess reliability were also outlined. This all lent itself to a concise yet clear subsection within the method. A flaw in the scale ratings interview would be subjectivity.
When creating a scale rating the researcher must be aware of “semantic incompatibility’ (Lam & Colic, 2008). Meaning it requires a knowledge and understanding of both the factor and the rating. This could be called into question in this particular piece of research in relation to the scale and the participants. Some of the scales are may not be applicable such as disguise. Unless the participants know the person and therefore know their typical voice how are they going to ascertain whether the voice has a disguise over it or not.
Alternatively some of the ratings may be too difficult for the children’s participant group to understand or even some adults may not know what the term means for example Timbre. Even the scale doesn’t really give an indication on what that could be. Light and dark is quite difficult to comprehend in terms of vocal descriptions. What may have been helpful to do, is give description of each effect and give the participant chance to ask for help. This may have already been done within the procedure, however this was not specified.
As a result of the many factors –human et al (2012) were investigating, the discussion was extensive yet rather descriptive. While the authors were mindful of the implications of the study. At points this was not always thorough in the reasoning. Such as the point that was made regarding accepting children as airworthiness. The authors found little or no effect in each factor and where there was an effect, the accuracy rate was fairly low with the highest being reported at 25% for children hearing the angry voice at both stages and having an immediate interview.
From this they concluded that children should be accepted as airworthiness but that was as far as the point went. This could have been expanded as the authors had done with witness confidence and usefulness of line-ups. They had used the previous research but they failed to fully explain the significance relying on the audience to fill in the gaps for them. Another failing of the authors was the lack of reflection. Even in the best of investigations there are going to be weaknesses. As researchers it is important that they are aware of the strengths and limitations of their work.
This can help determine reliability and validity as if the research design is poor this may then affect the results. Also by keeping this in mind when conducting future research they can do their utmost to account for this and have the most valid and reliable research possible. Throughout the discussion there was only one point raised regarding what could have been done differently. Interestingly, rather than simplifying things, they would have added another factor by testing a null hypothesis. Despite the majority of the findings going against what was expected, the authors at no point attributed this to the quality of the study.
Instead they highlighted the need for more research in some of the more understudied areas foundations, such as effect of time delay and tone, but was not met, the question was then asked why is recognition of voices so poor? This would have been the ideal place to highlight any directions for future research, such as more specific research into encoding of voices generally rather than specific effects on voice since we know very little about this at the moment. However very little thought to future study was given throughout the discussion.
Speaking generally now, compared to other research on the subject of earthiness memory and voices, this particular article does not really add anything to the field that is not already there. Throughout the literature review, for each effect it is stated that more research is needed due to there being a mixed results. The authors of this study either found no effect or where there was an effect there was low accuracy so it as concluded that voice identifications need to be treat with caution. This is really not a new discovery. For years there has been research into types of testimony and how unreliable it can be in general.
Overall the article comes across a little rudimentary. There were flaws in every section and as covered very little self-reflection which gives off a very basic feel to the research and undermines the research somewhat. If the authors cannot see where they went wrong how can they expect to move forward and improve? –human et al (2013) seem a little contradictory in various aspects of their work. They are either extremely detailed as with the interview section of the method, or they completely lack detail with the voice recording.
With the discussion, in one aspect they promoted the use of children as airworthiness however in another section advised of great caution. This contradiction gives the feeling that they authors are not confident in what they are saying and that lack of confidence can transfer across to the reader. There were some overall positives to the article however. –human et al (2013) do include all relevant research to the topic. They are aware of the fact that there is not enough of it but they do cover the main areas that affect earthiness memory and this shows in the extensive reference sections.
They do seem to have a good understanding and respect of previous research as in many places research is not just cited it is also expanded upon such as the discussion of picture versus verbal encoding (Vivo, 1971). The authors explain the phenomenon and then go on to apply it to this research. Almost 30 years ago it was stated that research needed to advance as quickly as possible into earthiness memory. Three decades on and we have added very little to our knowledge and understanding. Unfortunately as with eyewitness testimony research may not move this forward very much.
The general agreement seems to be that human memory is rather unreliable and fallible, regardless of the type of memory. Sadly there is not a great deal we can do regarding the encoding stage of memory in terms of witnesses, so it may be worth the focus being on the retrieval in earthiness memory.