The latest issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology (Volume 22 Issue 6, September 2008) is a special devoted to Basic and Applied Issues in Eyewitness Research, edited by Brian H. Bornstein, Christian A. Meissner. Published to mark the centenary of the publication of “On the Witness Stand” by Hugo Munsterburg, one of forensic psychology’s founding fathers, this issue contains a feast of articles by some of the top names in the field, and will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in eyewitness psychology.
The editors explain why the publication of Munsterberg’s text is worth marking:
Hugo Munsterberg, who was one of the earliest researchers on eyewitness memory, is probably the first figure to advocate strongly for a wider reliance by the courts on psychological research… [His] efforts were largely rebuffed … and since that time, there have been repeated calls for the courts to take eyewitness research (indeed, all social science research) more seriously, accompanied by a range of judicial responses ranging from ready acceptance to outright rejection (Monahan & Walker, 2005). Nor are all psychologists of one mind on this issue. Indeed, even Munsterberg himself, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of applied psychology, at times urged caution in applying psychological research findings to real-world problems…
Bornstein and Meissner go on to highlight two other reasons to revisit the issue of applying psychology in the courtroom: First, despite the increasing acceptance of eyewitness research in the courtroom (they say the “American courtroom” but of course other countries’ judicial systems have also taken note) there remain disagreements about the quality and ecological validity of such research. And second, the editors suggest that the “trend for greater acceptance of research findings by the legal system has, in the opinions of some observers, created a situation in which there is an overemphasis on practical questions, accompanied by a lack of theoretical relevance”. In other words, applied researchers need to pay equal attention to theoretical and practical implications of their research.
The articles in this issue set eyewitness research in a historical context and address the specific issues associated with such research and its applications. Highly recommended.
- Basic and applied issues in eyewitness research: A Münsterberg centennial retrospective – Brian H. Bornstein, Christian A. Meissner
- Lessons from the origins of eyewitness testimony research in Europe – Siegfried Ludwig Sporer
- Hugo who? G. F. Arnold’s alternative early approach to psychology and law – Brian H. Bornstein, Steven D. Penrod
- Toward a more informative psychological science of eyewitness evidence – John Turtle, J. Don Read, D. Stephen Lindsay, C. A. Elizabeth Brimacombe
- A “middle road” approach to bridging the basic-applied divide in eyewitness identification research – Sean M. Lane, Christian A. Meissner
- Study space analysis for policy development – Roy S. Malpass, Colin G. Tredoux, Nadja Schreiber Compo, Dawn McQuiston-Surrett, Otto H. MacLin, Laura A. Zimmerman, Lisa D. Topp
- The importance (necessity) of computational modelling for eyewitness identification research – Steven E. Clark
- Estimating the impact of estimator variables on eyewitness identification: A fruitful marriage of practical problem solving and psychological theorizing – Kenneth A. Deffenbacher
- Eyewitness confidence and latency: Indices of memory processes not just markers of accuracy – Neil Brewer, Nathan Weber
- Münsterberg’s legacy: What does eyewitness research tell us about the reliability of eyewitness testimony? – Amina Memon, Serena Mastroberardino, Joanne Fraser
- Theory, logic and data: Paths to a more coherent eyewitness science – Gary L. Wells