Introduction Memory is a mental process thathelps us remember and recall information and events that happened in the past.It’s accuracy is however questionable, it is thought to be subjective todistortions and recconstructions caused by post event information or schemafiltering. This is important to consider especially in cases of eye witnesstestimony. Elizabeth Loftus questioned the reliability of eye witness testimonyafter an innocent man was arrested because he resembled the real criminal(Loftus, 1980). In 1974 Loftus and Palmer conducted a study to test thereliability of memory.
The aim of the study (Loftus andPalmer, 1974) was to see how changing leading words in questions affectedmemory recall. The original study was conducted on forty five americanstudents, who were seperated into five groups each consisted of nine students.The study had an independant measures design laboratory experiment in whicheach group was shown a set of seven videos of car crashes in random order.After showing them the film the participants were given a questionarre, in eachof the groups the leading question had a verb of different intensity. Thequestion was phrased „About how fast were the cars going when they *verb* eactother?” and the questions were “smashed’,’collided’, ‘contacted’, ‘bumped’ and ‘hit’.
The findings of this studyshowed that smashed had the highest mean speed estimate while contacted had thelowest, Loftus and Palmer(1974) argued that this could be because of an actualmemory distortion or that the participant tried to adjust their answer to thestrength of the verb in the leading question.Theaim of our study was to see how usingdifferent verbs in leading questions on affected the estimated speeds given bythe participants. MethodDesignThestudy was an experiment, which gave us the cause and effect relationship of thevariables, with an independent measuresdesign.
The independant measures design was chosen because it is less timeconsuming and it eliminates order effect.The independant variable was the weightof the verb, meaning the difference in the significance of the verbs, usedin the leading question, and thedependant variable was the estimated speed given by the participants. Thestudy had two conditions,experimental and control.
In the first, experimentalcondition the verb used in thequestion was „smashed” and in thesecond condition the verb was„contacted”. To control extraneous variables we used additional questions in the survey to mask the leading question, to avoid demand charecteristics the participants were not introduced with the real aim of the study in the briefing,to control situational variables theparticipants were asked not to move or speak during the experimentand we made sure to keep quiet to not disturb the participants. The participants were givenconsent forms to sign before the beginning of the experiment, they were briefed and told they have the right to withdraw from the experimentat any time, they were also debriefedof the real aim of the experiment and explained the original study as well asthe theoretical background of the study. ParticipantsThestudy was conducted on eighteen highschool students, all attending thrid grade. Fifteen of the students aged seventeen and three sixteen, twelve of them were femalesand six males. The participantsample was an oppurtunity samplebecause it was the most convinient for us, it was the most time saving sincethe participants attend the same school as us and it served as a control overresearcher bias in choosing each participant specifically.
The partiipants wereall of the same nationality, and the majority had the same mother toungehowever two of the participants spoke different languages. The participantswere randomly allocated into the twocondition groups, by drawing numbers from a bag, to ensure that each one hadthe same chance of being put in each of the conditions.MaterialsThematerials needed was a computer connected to a projector, a video of a carcrash, two sets of questionarres (appendices i), consent forms (appendices ii),a briefing form (appendices iii) and a debriefing form (appendices iv).ProcedureTheexperiment was conducted in a group of four: Din, Zerina, Sara and me. Firstly,the eighteen participants were gathered in a big classroom. After they havechosen where to sit, the experimenters introduce themsleves and theparticipants are read the briefing, after which they are given out consentforms to sign. The participants, then, draw numbers(1 or 2) from a bag in order to seperate them into condition 1 and 2.
Onecondition is on the left side of the room while the other is on the right sideof the room. After they are seated they watch the car crash video once,projected on a panel, when the video is finished they are handed out thesurveys to fill out. Two examiners hand out the surveys, for it not to besuspicious why one examiner has two stacks of the supposed same surveys. The surveys are collected, and afterthat the participants are debriefed of the nature of the project, they aregiven an email adress on which they are able to contact the researchers if theywish to withdraw from the experiment or if they have any additional questions.
They are told that they would recieve the results during the following month.ResultsTheraw data from the survey were asembled into two tables (see appendices v). Thereason meadians were chosen as the central tendency is because the data in thecontacted condition is sparsely distributed and mean would not be a fittingmeasure, while in the smashed condition the mean and the median show the samecenter tendency value, but since there are outliers in the data the median isless affected by them than the mean.
Standard deviation was chosen since it ismore easily intrepreted than the variance, and it is a good measure ofdispersion to show how spread out the data is. From the calculation (seeappendices vi) the following were chosen for describing the data: