An Exploration of Ways to Improve Metacognitive Monitoring and Maximise the Quantity and Accuracy of Eyewitness Memory Reports

Author: Stacey Taylor-Aldridge

Taylor-Aldridge, Stacey, 2016 An Exploration of Ways to Improve Metacognitive Monitoring and Maximise the Quantity and Accuracy of Eyewitness Memory Reports, Flinders University, School of Psychology

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Witnesses have difficulty maximising the accuracy of their memory reports about a crime without reducing the amount of information that is provided (i.e., quantity). The research presented in this thesis aimed to make this task easier by exploring whether it was possible to improve people’s ability to distinguish between correct and incorrect memories (i.e., monitoring); a factor that is known to impact on the accuracy and quantity of eyewitness memory reports. Specifically, the studies conducted assessed monitoring ability (Type-2 Signal Detection Theory discrimination) in a memory task where participants responded to closed questions that can be answered in just a few words. Study 1 revealed that five mnemonic cues outlined in the source monitoring framework predicted response accuracy after controlling for natural monitoring ability (i.e., confidence). However, the results of Experiments 2 and 3 showed that altering knowledge of these mnemonic cues does not improve monitoring or have a significant impact on quantity or accuracy. Furthermore, Experiment 4 found that warning participants about the fallibility of eyewitness memory in addition to manipulating knowledge of mnemonic cues did not have a significant impact on monitoring, quantity, or accuracy. These outcome measures were also unaffected by specific instructions about how to engage in memory retrieval. The results of Experiment 5 suggested that the low withholding rates observed in Experiments 2-4 were unlikely to have been a consequence of the closed questions that were used, though they did reveal that monitoring is superior during open-ended than closed questioning. Two important avenues for future research will be to uncover why witnesses exhibit such a liberal response bias and determine whether the memory regulation strategies that witnesses employ during open-ended questioning can help them monitor the accuracy of their memories more effectively during closed questioning.

Keywords: eyewitness memory, metacognitive monitoring, metacognitive control, resolution, question format

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2016
School: School of Psychology
Supervisor: Nathan Weber