Date of Award

Summer 8-22-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department/Program

Forensic Psychology

Language

English

First Advisor

Charles B. Stone

Second Reader

Jennifer Dysart

Third Advisor

Aditi Bhattacharya

Abstract

Eyewitness testimony has been found to be an unreliable form of evidence (Loftus, Miller & Burns, 1978; Oswald & Coleman, 2007; Wells & Hasel, 2007; Loftus & Greenspan, 2017; Jaross, 2018; Wade, Nash, & Lindsay, 2018; Wixted, Mickes, & Fisher, 2018). Yet, this evidence is still used in the courts today, and, in fact, is perceived by jurors as important and compelling in comparison to other case factors (e.g., character evidence, physical evidence; Topp-Manriquez, McQuiston, & Malpass, 2014; Kabzińska, 2015). Additionally, eyewitnesses are sometimes requested to help create a facial composite of the suspect and, critically, these composites are then used as evidence during the trial. In addition to the confidence of the eyewitness and the presentation of the evidence (i.e., defense or prosecution), the present research examines how facial composites influence the decision-making process on the part of jurors. Overall, the present results suggest that there is a significant difference in belief of guilt between mock jurors who are in the good composite match condition versus those who see a poor match or are exposed to no composite condition. There is no significant difference between those in the poor composite match and no composite conditions, nor are there any differences in terms of whether the witness is confident or not or whether the defense or prosecution presents the evidence. These results are discussed in terms of the importance of facial composites in shaping juror decision-making.

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