Breathe, Relax, Recognise

Fredman, Marc
(2021) Breathe, Relax, Recognise. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Witness memory is fallible. Time and again, people convicted on the basis of witness testimony are exonerated when DNA is introduced into the case. Some of those convicted are sometimes chosen by multiple different witnesses from a line-up. Witness memory for the event and surrounding information has also been shown to be less than perfect, especially over time. However recent research has demonstrated a favourable effect of a short focussed meditation/breathing exercise on identification accuracy, with participants in such conditions being more accurate than a control group. Other research has also shown beneficial effects of eye closure, when witnesses are instructed to close their eyes for the duration of the interview. The experiments reported in this thesis investigated the applied and theoretical aspects of focussed meditation and the eye closure effect. Experiment 1 examined the theoretical underpinnings of focussed meditation and whether it primed a global processing orientation which is conducive to face recognition. The study found that indeed, although not statistically significant, focussed meditation not only primed a global processing orientation but also led to quicker reaction times. Experiment 2 extended the findings of study 1 to actual face recognition from a line-up. The results showed that focussed meditation did improve identification accuracy rates, however, focussed meditation did not show a beneficial effect on witness reports, which is incongruent with previous research in the area and something that was addressed in a study further on in the thesis. Study 3 extended the focussed meditation to voice recognition, with the thinking being, that both faces and voices are processed in the same manner. Results of the study showed a beneficial effect of the focussed meditation instruction on voice recognition. In this particular study, eye closure was assessed in conjunction with focussed meditation and there were beneficial effects of both on recognition and witness reports. 2 Study 4 examined an issue that arose during study 2 and 3. Previous research around focussed meditation had shown an additive effect of the instruction coupled with eye closure, leading to more accurate witness reporting, however, both study 2 and 3 of this thesis showed no such effect. It was therefore hypothesised that the issue had arisen due to the time between the initial focussed meditation instruction and the free recall section of the studies. Study 4 looked to address this situation by introducing the focussed meditation exercise prior to each of the facial recognition line-ups, the voice recognition line-up and 3 prior to both the free recall and cued recall sections of the study. The results showed that the introduction of the focussed meditation exercise, coupled with the eye closure, prior to each of the sections, did provide for more accurate reporting, thus suggesting that there is a time limit to the positive effects of focussed meditation. Taken together as a whole, the findings suggest that focussed meditation primes global processing, which is congruent with both face and voice recognition. The findings also demonstrate that there is a time limit to the effects of focussed meditation and therefore an application in order to refresh, prior to each line-up and the reporting, could make a significant difference. The findings also showed the benefits of eye closure on witness reporting and also suggest a more cognitive load theory of eye closure.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2022 15:50
Last Modified: 18 Jan 2023 19:43
DOI: 10.17638/03166189
  • Cole, Jon