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How Do Jurors Evaluate Memory Evidence? An Open-Ended Approach To Investigating Beliefs About Memory That Jurors Bring To The Courtroom

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Version 2 2023-04-17, 03:17
Version 1 2023-03-30, 21:36
posted on 2023-04-17, 03:17 authored by Weir, Emma

Beliefs about memory play an important role in courtroom contexts, particularly in cases that relyheavily on eyewitness testimony. Previous research has revealed that people hold many misconceptions about how memory works, and what influences memory accuracy. Most of these studies have captured people’s beliefs by asking closed questions with forced choice response options (e.g. multichoice or Likert scales). These closed question methods may be limiting our understanding of how jurors evaluate memory evidence because of their restricted focus. Instead jurors may activate and prioritise a wider array of beliefs and assumptions in their deliberations than have been examined in surveys to date. The current study builds on prior research by adopting an open-ended approach to investigate which memory beliefs jurors bring to the courtroom, and which are likely to be the most influential in their evaluations of eyewitness memory. We asked people a series of open questions about what would convince them of the accuracy of a testimony, then asked them to rank their ideas in order of importance. We found the open question format generated different beliefs from those captured by closed question paradigms. People’s mostcommon and importantly ranked beliefs fell into three categories; accuracy/consistency, narrative coherence, and witness behaviour. Our findings suggest that juror evaluations of testimony are underpinned by a variety of beliefs about both memory and human behaviour, many of which contradict established scientific findings. This highlights further need for researchers to examine how to educate jurors and counter beliefs that may contribute to poor courtroom decision making.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

230406 Legal processes

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

2 Strategic basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Brown, Deirdre; Zajac, Rachel