Do actors or observers make better eyewitnesses?
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Colby, M. Amanda Earl.
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Researchers studying the reliability of eyewitness testimony have focused mainly on criminal rather than civil cases, specifically those including product identification and liability. With numerous lawsuits against product manufacturers (including toxic substances like asbestos), an understanding of the factors involved in memories of products is important. This study attempted to further the research on eyewitness memory in product identification by examining differences between witnesses with differing levels of product involvement. The effects of time, experience, and subjects' self-reported confidence were also analyzed. Subjects either observed or mixed a recipe and later answered a questionnaire about the brands used. Contrary to expectations, observers were more accurate than subjects who mixed the recipes. Overall, confidence was unrelated to accuracy. Also unexpectedly, more baking experience did not result in higher accuracy. Experienced subjects were more confident in their choices, suggesting experience inflates confidence without improving accuracy. Implications of these results in matters of product identification testimony are discussed.