UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

In support of a diversity of methods : eyewitness memory in actual cases of robbery and fraud Tollestrup, Patricia Ann


Much of our knowledge of eyewitness memory is built on laboratory based studies. In recent years this has caused a controversy, the resolution of which seems to be an acceptance of the need to learn about eyewitness memory from a variety of methods such as field studies, case, and archival research. The thesis reports an archival analysis of actual Royal Canadian Mounted Police case files of robbery and fraud. Previous research on the configuration of robberies was replicated. The majority of robberies are victim-only crimes that do not involve bystander eyewitnesses. Robbery victims and witnesses provided more details (10.96 and 9.37 respectively) regarding the perpetrator’s appearance than fraud victims (2.11). Less than 10% of robbery victims and witnesses, but almost 75% of fraud victims were unable to describe the perpetrator. All eyewitnesses tended to overestimate age and underestimate height and weight. Identification outcomes were analyzed according to the evidence category of the perpetrator (Confession, Implicating and None). The likeithood that the police suspect was indeed the actual perpetrator is assumed to be highest in the Confession condition and lowest in the None condition. In the Confession condition, the police suspect was selected by 84.6% of robbery victims, 55.55 of robbery witnesses and by 22.7% of fraud victims. Identification accuracy was adversely influence by the average delay between the crime and attempting an identification. Delay was a confound in these analyses as on average, victims of robbery attempted their identifications sooner than both robbery witnesses and fraud victims. Limited support was found for the weapon focus phenomenon. Weapon presence (in robbery cases only) did not influence descriptions (amount or accuracy). Weapon presence did not significantly adversely influence identification accuracy, but was close to obtaining significance (p = .061). The present analysis demonstrated the feasibility as well as the utility of archival research.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.