Eyewitnesses often wrong: Swedish study

Eyewitnesses cannot always be trusted, a psychologist at the Lund University has revealed in a recent study.

Eyewitnesses often wrong: Swedish study

Farhan Sarwar, a witness psychologist at Lund University, disclosed the findings in his dissertation scheduled for defence on Friday.

The more often a witness narrated and discussed a story, the greater the risk of error became, according to Sarwar.

Eyewitnesses are weak at reproducing details such as the attire of criminals or what weapons were used, but they can be used to grasp the main points of a course of events, said Sarwar.

Sarwar’s thesis investigated the effects of eyewitness retellings and discussions with non-witnesses on eyewitness memory and meta-memory judgments.

The first study examined the effect of eyewitness discussions with non-witnesses on eyewitness memory and meta-memory realism for the overall information about an event.

The results suggest that discussions of an experienced event may reduce some of the beneficial memory and meta-memory effects from mere retellings, but may not have substantial negative effects compared to a control condition.

“Analysis of the type of questions asked suggests listeners ask more about the peripheral details as compared with the central details,” Sarwar said in a statement.

One year later, a follow-up study of participants in the retell condition showed no evidence of memory and meta-memory benefits present in the original final test after about 24 days.

However, participants in the retell condition recalled more accurate items than participants in the control condition.

A second study evaluated the effect of eyewitness discussions with non-witnesses for different forensically central, forensically peripheral and non-forensic information. These are the types of information that police may ask about at the start of a crime investigation.

The results from the two experiments showed that participants had better memory and meta-memory realism for forensically central and non-forensic information than for forensically peripheral information.

Moreover, participants in the four conditions were equally capable of distinguishing between correct and incorrect items.

In addition, in the first experiment, participants in conditions involving retelling and discussing the event reported more items, as well as the number of correct forensically central items, compared to the control condition.

The third study investigated whether retellings and discussions caused more reminiscences and hypermnesia, or an elevated level of memory recall, than mere retelling accounts.

The results showed that discussions cause more reminiscences and hypermnesia over the five sessions as compared to mere retellings. They also revealed that the more times something was repeated over the sessions, the higher the probability was for it being retrieved at the final recall.

“Interestingly, the retelling or discussion of information in an earlier or later session did not predict if it would be reported in the testing session,” said Sarwar.

The results showed that forensically peripheral information, but not forensically central information was affected by the reiteration effect, or the effect that confidence tends to increase when a person asserts the same statement many times.

This may be due to peripheral information being less integrated than central information.

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Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

A man was shot to death in Kristianstad, Skåne, late on Thursday night. He is the 48th person to be shot dead in Sweden this year, meaning that the previous record for most fatal shootings in one year set in 2020 has now been broken.

Sweden breaks yearly record for fatal shootings

“Unfortunately we can’t say more than that he’s in his twenties and we have no current suspects,” duty officer Mikael Lind told TT newswire.

According to police statistics, this most recent deadly shooting means that 48 people have been shot to death in 2022, meaning that Sweden has broken a new record for deadly shootings per year.

Earlier this week, Sweden’s police chief Anders Thornberg said that this number is likely to rise even higher before the end of the year.

“It looks like we’re going to break the record this year,” he told TT on Tuesday. “That means – if it continues at the same pace – around 60 deadly shootings.”

“If it ends up being such a large increase that would be very unusual,” said Manne Gerell, criminiologist at Malmö University.

“We saw a large increase between 2017 and 2018, and we could see the same now, as we’re on such low figures in Sweden. But it’s still worrying that it’s increasing by so much over such a short time period,” he said.

There also seems to be an upwards trend in the number of shootings overall during 2022. 273 shootings had occured by September 1st this year, compared with 344 for the whole of 2021 and 379 for the whole of 2020.

If shootings continue at this rate for the rest of 2022, it is likely that the total number for the year would be higher than 2021 and 2020. There are, however, fewer injuries.

“The majority of shootings cause no injuries, but this year, mortality has increased substantially,” Gerell explained. “There aren’t more people being shot, but when someone is shot, they’re more likely to die.”

Thursday’s shooting took place in Kristianstad, but it’s only partially true that deadly gun violence is becoming more common in smaller cities.

“It’s moved out somewhat to smaller cities, but we’re overexaggerating that effect,” Gerell said. “We’re forgetting that there have been shootings in other small cities in previous years.”

A report from the Crime Prevention Council (Brå) presented last spring showed that Sweden, when compared with 22 different countries in Europe, was the only one with an upwards trend for deadly shootings.

Temporary increases can be seen during some years in a few countries, but there were no countries which showed such a clear increase as Sweden has seen for multiple years in a row, according to Brå.

The Swedish upwards trend for deadly gun violence began in the beginning of the 2000s, but the trend took off in 2013 and has continued to increase since.

Eight of ten deadly shootings take place in criminal environments, the study showed. The Swedish increase has taken place in principle only among the 20-29 year old age group.

When police chief Anders Thornberg was asked how the trend can be broken, he said that new recruitments are one of the most important factors.

“The most important thing is to break recruitment, make sure we can listen encrypted and that we can get to the profits of crime in a better way,” he said.