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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Influence of victim characteristics and crime type on eyewitness recall of perceived stereotypicality Hutchinson, Shirley May Gallon


Previous research in Canada and the United States has shown that activated racial stereotypes about a given crime type can influence an eyewitness’ memory of perceived stereotypicality for the perpetrator of that given crime. Specifically, it has been shown that participants who are exposed to a surveillance video of a highly stereotypical Black crime (i.e., drive-by shooting) falsely recall the perpetrator from the video to be higher on perceived Black stereotypicality than those who are exposed to a surveillance video of a highly stereotypical White crime (i.e., serial killing). Victim characteristics such as the race of the victim (i.e., Black adult males vs. White adult males), in conjunction with crime type, were examined in the current research to determine their influence on the accuracy of eyewitness recall. The perceived deservingness of these victims was also examined. The results replicated and confirmed previous research that has shown how crime type (i.e., drive-by shooting vs. serial killing) can influence an individual’s eyewitness recall of perceived stereotypicality (i.e., M = 54.03 vs. M = 50.18, respectively). In the present research, however, the race of the victim did not exacerbate the effect of the crime type findings. The race of the victim did matter in terms of perceived deservingness, however, with Black adult males being viewed as more deserving of the purported crime than White adult males (i.e., M = 6.90 and M = 4.53, respectively). In the United States alone, eyewitness identification errors account for approximately 75% of all wrongful convictions. Of these wrongful convictions, 70% involve the wrongful conviction of individuals from minority groups. The findings of the present research will not only help to address the issues related to eyewitness (mis)identifications, but will also contribute to educating the public on how these errors may disproportionately impact certain minority groups, and the need for positive change.

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