Eyewitness Memory: How Stress and Situational Factors Affect Eyewitness Recall
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As eyewitness memory and its current admissibility as evidence in courts have come under scrutiny, numerous studies have examined variables that affect eyewitness memory. These variables are divided into system and estimator variables. System variables are factors that can be controlled by the criminal justice system; estimator variables are those which cannot be controlled by the justice system. Considerable research has demonstrated that stress can either inhibit or enhance memory depending on the level of arousal. This literature review will examine the role and effect of stress in general and in regard to other estimator variables (e.g., seriousness, weapons focus, and victim vs. bystander). Both field and laboratory studies will be examined. General trends, important caveats, and limitations will be reported. Despite the breadth of research in both eyewitness research and stress and memory, there is no recent comprehensive review of the effect of stress on eyewitness memory. This literature review will serve to bridge that gap and provide resources for those looking to continue research in the area of stress and eyewitness memory.