The Effect of Gender of Victim and Gender of Perpetrator on Recall of a Crime
Lindsey Coyle, Emily Foy, Bethany Kasdon, and Sarah White
The relationship between gender of the victim of a crime, gender of the perpetrator of a crime, gender of the eyewitness of a crime, and recall of that crime were examined in a 2x2 independent groups factorial design. Forty-four female subjects were split into 4 conditions based on the gender of the victim and the perpetrator in the video scene they viewed: female victim and female perpetrator, female victim and male perpetrator, male victim and male perpetrator, and male victim and female perpetrator. The dependent variable, accuracy of recall, was measured using a open-ended questionnaire based on the scene. No relationship was found between gender of perpetrator, victim, and eyewitness on recall of a crime. Gender may not be as significant a factor in eyewitness testimony as previous research has suggested.
3 previous research studies + 1 pilot study
Powers, Andriks, & Loftus (1978) examined the types of details eyewitnesses recalled about a crime in correlation to the gender of the subject (gender-bias). They determined that the female participants recalled more information about actions in crime, and male participants recalled more information about physical or environmental conditions in crime scene.
study didn’t examine relationship between gender of the eyewitness and gender of the victim in a crime, or gender of the perpetrator of a crime.
DeMaris, Pugh, and Harman (1992) studied the role of eyewitness gender in the accuracy of recall of a violent criminal offense. By testing both male and female eyewitnesses they found that each over reported actions within the violent crime scene, (reporting they occurred more often than they actually did) and underreported actions within the nonviolent crime scene. Also, they found that participants who were emotionally distressed by the content in the violent scene were significantly more accurate than those subjects who were less affected.
Study didn’t find a difference between the way male and female eyewitnesses recall events of a crime scene.
Shaw and Skolnik (1994) investigated the relationship between gender and eyewitness recall of an event, concentrating on the validity of recall of various objects rather than a crime scene. Results confirmed a predicted own-sex bias effect. These findings are significant because they demonstrate a relationship between gender and recall.
Our pilot study focused on the relationship between the gender of the eyewitness and the gender of the victim, measuring accuracy of female subject’s recall for male vs. female victim crimes. Although results were not significant, this study served as groundwork to add our second independent variable, gender of perpetrator.
- Female participants will accurately recall more details when the victim is female.
- Female participants will accurately recall more details when the perpetrator is female.
- Female participants will accurately recall the most details when both the victim and the perpetrator are female.
- Subjects that report high levels of emotional distress will accurately recall more details of the crime.
The present study tested the effects of gender of the victim and gender of the perpetrator of a crime on accuracy of eyewitness recall of that crime. The first independent variable, gender of the victim, varied over two levels, male and female. The second independent variable, gender of the victim, varied over two levels, male and female. The dependent variable, accuracy of eyewitness recall, was measured by responses to an open-ended questionnaire.
- 44 female traditional and nontraditional age undergraduate students of Mount Holyoke College
- Consent form
- Four 5 min video clips portraying a victim held at knifepoint and robbed by a perpetrator
- female victim and a male perpetrator
- female victim and a female perpetrator
- male victim and a male perpetrator
- male victim and a female perpetrator
- Filler activity consisting of a simple crossword puzzle
- Recall sheet with 38 open-ended questions pertaining to the video clip the participant viewed
- Debriefing statement
- Participants told that the purpose of the study is to examine perceptions of a crime and the crimes that they will view contain violence
- Participants told that they may discontinue participation at any time without penalty
- Participants signed the consent form
- Participants randomly assigned to one of the four treatment conditions
- Participants instructed to "carefully watch the following videotape"
- Participants viewed the tape
- Participants participated in 3 min filler activity
- Participants received a questionnaire and asked to "please answer the following questions"
- Participants given 12 min to complete the questionnaire
- Participants told that the study is about the effects of gender of the victim and of the perpetrator on recall of a crime
- Participants were allowed to ask any questions that they may have had, thanked for their time, and received a debriefing statement
- Each researcher coded the data separately, awarding 1 point to each correctly answered question while deducting no points for incorrectly answered questions, according to a predetermined schema for each question
- The researchers convened in order to compare coded data and tally scores in order to measure the accuracy of recalled memories of the crime scene
Our results were analyzed using a 2 (male victim vs. female victim) X 2 (male perpetrator vs. female perpetrator) factorial independent groups ANOVA
Subjects who viewed a female victim did not recall more details than the subjects who viewed a male victim
Subjects who viewed a female perpetrator did not recall more details than the subjects who viewed a male perpetrator
Subjects who viewed both a female victim and female perpetrator did not recall more details than the subjects who viewed male victim- male perpetrator, male victim- female perpetrator, or female victim- male perpetrator
- Our hypothesis that subjects would recall more details if they were the same sex as the victim or the perpetrator was not supported
- Our hypothesis that subjects would recall more details if they were the same sex as the victim and the perpetrator was not supported
- Our hypothesis that subjects would recall more details if they were emotionally distressed by the content of the video was also not supported
- Coding the answers from the open-ended questionnaire was difficult because:
- Subjects perceived certain colors of objects as being different from the color’s true nature (a tan car was perceived as "silver" or "gray")
- Some questions were "too" open-ended
- Some subjects recognized the female perpetrator as a fellow classmate
- The individual "crime scenes" were not realistic for many reasons:
- The location and the plot line not convincing
- A shorter woman would not attack a taller man
- Weapon utilized not threatening or victim did not respond to weapon in an appropriate manner
- As a result of the unrealistic nature of the video, most subjects were not emotionally distressed by the content, therefore we could not accurately conclude that the amount of details recalled is affected by emotional distress
- Our study indicates that any combination of gender of perpetrator and gender of victim may not affect an eyewitness’ account of a crime scene.
- It also indicates that the level of the eyewitness’ emotional distress may not affect how many details she recalls.
- Ideally requires:
- Male subjects- study now has no external validity because it does not apply to entire population
- Realistic location, plot lines, and weapon for crime scenes
- Realistic use of weapon by the perpetrators and convincing reaction to weapon by the victims
- Pre-tested questions from a sample population to decrease variation of acceptable answers and increase coding reliability
(These are questions that were taken from the questionnaire given to participants in order to measure their recall of the crime scene.)
What did Betty remind the person on the phone to do?
What did Dave say was the name of the park?
Where did the perpetrator first grab Betty?
What color was Dave’s shirt?
What is Dave’s height compared to the perpetrator?
What does Betty give the perpetrator?