Our brain is a fascinating agent, responsible for various processes. One of these processes is our memory. Our very own memory card telling the story of our life. However, it does not seem to be completely flawless. Can you remember the voice of the worker from the busy pizza place with whom you only had one short exchange of words a few days ago? It will not be dramatic if you won’t recognize Mr. Pizza Guy’s voice the next time you order pizza on the phone. However, in the context of (ear)witness testimonies, not remembering correctly may have serious consequences such as wrongful convictions. So, what influences voice recognition and is there anything that can improve the accuracy of identifying a perpetrator’s voice in such earwitness cases?
Eyewitness studies showed that context reinstatement – presenting environmental cues from the encoding phase (the crime) during the retrieval phase (the lineup) – does indeed lead to an improvement in the accuracy of identifying the perpetrator in eyewitness testimonies. In our “auditory memory study” we investigate if this also applies to earwitnesses cases. We included a delay of two days after the encoding phase to create realistic witness conditions.
As a hypothesis we stated that context reinstatement would lead to enhanced accuracy in identifying possible perpetrators. It is of great importance to investigate this topic since there are few studies conducted within the field of context reinstatement in earwitness testimonies. It may become useful in court to increase the identification accuracy which, in turn, may result in fewer false convictions in witness testimonies cases.
Group 35 subgroup “context reinstatement and the accuracy of earwitness testimonies”: Branco, T., Darman, D., Leese, P., Müller, M. & Thissen, D.