Crime seriousness and its effects on eyewitness accuracy, confidence, and arousal
This study tested the effect of crime seriousness on eyewitness recognition, confidence, and selfreported arousal, using a single factor design with 3 levels; no-crime, moderately-serious crime, and serious crime. Participants (n=44) were asked to role-play as a security guard and observe a surveillance video looking for a suspect. The audio portion of the surveillance video was manipulated and the message varied in reported crime seriousness, along with subsequent voice urgency, and intensity. The participants then completed a self-report arousal instrument, the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Check List (Thayer, 1989), and a suspect characteristics recognition test. The key finding in this study included a significant difference using a planned comparison at a one-tailed level, for eyewitness accuracy, where performance in the no-crime condition was better than in the crime-present conditions. The trends for confidence ratings declined as the seriousness increased, although not significantly. The crime manipulations had no impact on self-reported arousal ratings. Thus, from this study it can be concluded that: crime presence had an effect on eyewitness recognition accuracy, and confidence and arousal were not affected by crime seriousness.