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Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law

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Encyclopedia of Psychology and Law

Brian L. Cutler

Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 21, 2008 | DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412959537 | Print ISBN: 9781412951890 | Online ISBN: 9781412959537 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.

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Stress and Eyewitness Memory

Ani A. Aharonian & Brian H. Bornstein

Stress exerts complex effects on eyewitness memory. On the whole, it has a negative effect, but this can be quite variable depending on the level of stress and the aspect of the witnessed event that one is trying to remember. Stress operates similarly in affecting person recognition (i.e., lineup performance) and recall of event details. The effects of stress on eyewitness memory and identification are of interest because of the fact that persons witnessing a crime, especially a violent crime, commonly (though not always) experience stress. “Stress” is itself a rather vague term that has been interpreted differently by various commentators, but generally, it can be taken to denote a negative emotional state associated with both physiological changes and a subjective set of cognitions. The physiological experience of stress is associated with increased arousal, marked by increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tone. The subjective experience typically includes ...

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