H Cullen1, H Paterson1,2, C Van Golde1,2
1The University Of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2Sydney Institute of Criminology, Sydney, Australia
The testimony of witnesses can be pivotal in ensuring just outcomes during criminal trials. However, eyewitnesses and police officers may experience “inattentional blindness”, whereby they fail to notice crimes occurring due to their attention being focused on something else. Inattentional blindness is poorly understood by members of the general public, and this may affect how jurors perceive witnesses who testify that they experienced inattentional blindness for a crime. In the current study, 353 participants read a fictitious criminal trial transcript with two key witnesses: one who saw the crime in question, and another who experienced inattentional blindness for the crime, and therefore did not see it occur. Trial transcripts also varied according to whether the witnesses were described as civilian bystanders or police officers, whether the witness who experienced inattentional blindness knew the perpetrator or not, and whether an expert provided testimony on inattentional blindness or not. Participants were then asked to rate the credibility, accuracy, and honesty of each witness. The findings showed that the witness who experienced inattentional blindness for the crime was perceived as less credible, accurate, and honest than the witness who saw the crime. Additionally, jurors perceived the witness who experienced inattentional blindness as less credible if they knew the perpetrator, and expert testimony did not improve these perceptions. These findings suggest that inattentional blindness may negatively affect juror perceptions of witnesses, highlighting the need for future research that addresses the misconceptions around inattentional blindness to ensure justice in criminal trials.
Hayley is a second year PhD student within the forensic psychology lab at the University of Sydney. Her research explores the role of inattention and memory in both eyewitnesses and police officers, and how jurors perceive this during criminal trials.