Perceptual load affects eyewitness accuracy and susceptibility to leading questions

Thumbnail Image
1371.pdf(1.6 MB)
Published Version
Murphy, Gillian
Greene, Ciara M.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Frontiers Media
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Load Theory (Lavie, 1995, 2005) states that the level of perceptual load in a task (i.e.,the amount of information involved in processing task-relevant stimuli) determines the efficiency of selective attention. There is evidence that perceptual load affects distractor processing, with increased inattentional blindness under high load. Given that high load can result in individuals failing to report seeing obvious objects, it is conceivable that load may also impair memory for the scene. The current study is the first to assess the effect of perceptual load on eyewitness memory. Across three experiments (two video-based and one in a driving simulator), the effect of perceptual load on eyewitness memory was assessed. The results showed that eyewitnesses were less accurate under high load, in particular for peripheral details. For example, memory for the central character in the video was not affected by load but memory for a witness who passed by the window at the edge of the scene was significantly worse under high load. High load memories were also more open to suggestion, showing increased susceptibility to leading questions. High visual perceptual load also affected recall for auditory information, illustrating a possible cross-modal perceptual load effect on memory accuracy. These results have implications for eyewitness memory researchers and forensic professionals.
Perceptual load , Eyewitness memory , Attention Perception , Reconstructive memory
Murphy, G. and Greene, C. M. (2016) ‘Perceptual load affects eyewitness accuracy and susceptibility to leading questions’, Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1322. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01322
Link to publisher’s version