Scene and Object Manipulation's Role in Weapon Focus Effect Triggers
(2015) Scene and Object Manipulation's Role in Weapon Focus Effect Triggers, no. 45.
The weapon focus effect refers to a witness' compromised ability to recall and identify details of a scene and a perpetrator when a weapon or unusual object is present. This experiment investigated if scene complexity and exposure duration interact with participants' recall and identification ability when objects were either low or high in unusualness and threat. Scene complexity and duration can potentially influence participants' ability to encode enough details of the scene in sufficient time. Participants watched a video clip altered in either length of time or complexity of scene or a combination of both. The video depicted two actors engaging in conversation with one holding a target object. After watching, participants completed a questionnaire about details relevant to actors, periphery and object held and then viewed both target-present and target-absent lineups and asked to identify which, if any, of the choices of persons were shown in the video. Main effects of threat and unusualness were not found for memory and identification however a significant interaction with complexity, duration and threat was found for cued recall memory and a marginal significance of the same interaction in recognition memory. Overall, memory was inferior with participants in conditions with a short duration, complex environment and threatening objects. No significant interactions were found for target identification. It is concluded that further research on the effects of duration and scene complexity should be carried out with objects that can more reliably fit their desired levels of threat and unusualness in order to better understand this relationship.