Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
First Advisor or Mentor
This present study calls to question the objectivity of police body-worn camera (BWC) footage. Proponents assume that BWCs will be a panacea in a climate of heightened tensions between officers and communities. In spite of this, our findings challenge the rhetoric, and the purpose BWC is intended to serve. We explored its implications on memory distortion by posing two questions (a) can people come to remember BWC footage as more traumatic than they initially experienced (b) to what degree can external information and internal influences impact peoples' judgment about a traumatic event. We addressed both questions in this two-part study, where participants watched an emotionally disturbing film depicting a police-citizen interaction with some critical (crux) and non-critical (non-crux) scenes and/or did not read an officer’s incident report that contained misinformation about the citizen that would justify his actions. We examined people’s beliefs about police to determine if it predicts a mediating effect of the impact of events on memory distortion. Participants answered questions that would examine their memory for the facts to determine the extent to which they relied on the officer’s misinformation in judging who was at fault and their impressions of the officer and civilian. Following a 24-hour delay, they completed a memory test that featured a compilation of all clips about the original film into a series of short clips, some of which we removed. From the queue, they were asked to identify clips they had seen (old), they had not seen (missing), and clips that presented unrelated scenes (new) and rated the confidence of their decisions. Participants demonstrated a high degree of memory distortion for the most traumatic aspects of the event and impaired judgments due to the length of the delay period, the effects of misinformation, and the partial influence of their preexisting biases contributing to memorial failure. We explain our results in terms of source monitoring errors, bias blind spots, and confirmation bias.
Abreu, Arlyn, "Perception of Police and the Mediation of Memory Distortion via Trauma: Body Worn Camera Footage of an Emotional Police-Citizen Encounter" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.