Session 6 Abstracts

Manipulated Eyewitness Reports Cause Memory Distortion

Kevin Cochran
Psychology and Social Behavior
Co-authors: Daniel Bogart (Psychology and Social Behavior), Elizabeth Loftus (Ph. D., Psychology and Social Behavior)

It is well known that memory can be distorted by misleading information. After witnessing an event, if people are exposed to misleading suggestions, they often incorporate those suggestions into their memories for the event. This process is known as the misinformation effect. However, no previous study has tested whether eyewitness’ memories can be distorted by falsified versions of their own memory reports.

The present study examined this question. In an online experiment, subjects first witnessed a slideshow depicting a crime, and answered questions about their memories for the crime. Later, they were asked to review their answers to the memory questions, but some of their responses had been altered; this constituted the misinformation. Finally, subjects answered the same memory questions a second time. We were interested in seeing whether the misinformation that subjects were given would cause their memories to change for the second memory test. Results indicated that being exposed to misleading information about subjects’ own memory reports caused their memories to change to be consistent with the misinformation. For critical items but not control items, subjects’ memory reports at the second memory test had shifted, and this shift occurred in line with the misinformation. Thus, the present study demonstrated that people can be misled about their own memory reports, and that this misinformation can have enduring effects on their memories.

This research has diverse implications. In legal contexts, witnesses are often shown statements that are supposed to be summaries of their reports. If these statements contain errors, either due to misunderstandings between witnesses and police or due to deliberate manipulation, merely reading through one’s own “witness statement” could cause one’s memory to be contaminated. The present findings could also be important in other domains. One of the strongest predictors of future behavior in a given domain is memory for past experiences in that domain. For instance, one factor that affects peoples’ willingness to go to the doctor is their previous experiences with doctors. If people can be made to remember unpleasant doctor’s visits as more positive and less negative they truly were, they may be more willing to seek care in the future. Finally, the present findings might be applied to educational or workplace settings. If students or employees can be made to remember stressful tasks as less difficult and more enjoyable, they should be more willing and better able to accomplish similarly difficult tasks in the future.

Promoting a Comprehensive Approach to Ensuring Accessibility to Gender Incongruent Healthcare

Jordan Aiken
Interdisciplinary/Gateway and Law Programs

Many transgender and gender nonconforming (GNC) individuals are denied access to preventive healthcare and services due to the gender marker on file with their insurance provider/payer. For example, transgender men (female to male), who might have a male gender marker on file, are frequently denied coverage for Pap smears, prenatal care, breast exams and menstrual disorders even though they physically need this care. Similarly, transgender women are often denied coverage for prostate exams. These are examples of gender incongruent healthcare, which occurs when treatment that is required for one’s body does not match traditional notions of the care needed for that gender. While law and policy on this topic have improved recently, several barriers remain, which separate transgender and GNC individuals from essential comprehensive healthcare.

Twenty transgender and GNC individuals from across the United States and Canada were interviewed for this study. Their individual experiences informed the study’s analysis and illustrate the healthcare barriers that transgender and GNC individuals face. A review of state and federal statutes, case law, the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid regulations, Veterans Administration directives, insurance coding procedures and American Medical Association policies on this issue inform the present analysis.

After studying the laws, policies, regulations and directives on this topic, I propose a comprehensive approach to policy changes that would include medical provider and staff cultural competency trainings, insurance coding system reform, coordinated care among providers, bolstered complaint mechanisms and new intake procedures.

This work affects:
There are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the US. Transgender and GNC individuals face outright denials of healthcare coverage necessary for their bodies, and some forego healthcare altogether rather than face a hostile or unwelcoming environment. This work helps to reverse these trends by informing policy that would ensure access to comprehensive care.

Why you should care:
The denial of appropriate healthcare affects not only transgender and GNC individuals, but can negatively affect loved ones, sexual partners, family, friends, and public health at large. The lack of proper healthcare has led to an under diagnosis of breast, cervix and prostate cancers and increased disease transmission and progression.

Implications of my study:
This study will inform policy changes that foster implementation of the laws, directives and regulations that will compel healthcare providers, insurers/payers, legal/governmental bodies and transgender and GNC patients to work together to overcome barriers and ensure access to comprehensive healthcare.

The Role of Maltreatment in Adolescents’ Development of Emotional Competence

Helen Milojevich
Psychology and Social Behavior

Background: The costs of child maltreatment are staggering with deleterious effects on children emerging in every developmental domain, including cognitive, psychological, and social functioning. The mechanisms underlying these effects are complex and multifaceted, being shaped not only by characteristics within children, but also by their experiences during and after exposure to maltreatment. One mechanism that has been relatively understudied, but has the potential to interact with children’s experiences to affect a range of outcomes, is emotional competence, or the ability to express, understand, and regulate one’s emotions. Emotional competence is associated with psychological well-being, behavioral functioning, delinquency, and physical health in nonmaltreated samples as well as samples of young maltreated children. Given that adolescence is a unique time, cognitively and emotionally, it may be a time when maltreatment experiences play a critical role in shaping emotional competence.

Methods: At Time 1, two samples of youth, ages 10-17, one with a substantiated history of maltreatment and one with no reported history of maltreatment, completed a battery of measures, including those that tap emotional competence, behavioral functioning, and cognitive abilities. Caregivers completed questionnaires regarding adolescents’ emotional and behavioral functioning. At Time 2 (delay = 6 months), adolescents and their caregivers completed questionnaires regarding the adolescents’ behavioral functioning and, for the maltreated adolescents, placement stability. Information about the adolescents’ family, maltreatment, and background was collected at both times via case files. Data collection for the maltreated sample has concluded; testing for the nonmaltreated sample is still underway and will be completed shortly.

Implications: The current study has the potential to advance theoretical understanding and to inform the treatment and intervention of highly vulnerable adolescent populations. Theoretically, the current study will elucidate the mechanisms underlying the development of emotional competence and provide a novel investigation into the trajectory of emotional competence by following maltreated adolescents over multiple time points, and determining how their emotional competence predicts their behavioral and psychological functioning across development. Practically, the study has tremendous implications for the treatment and intervention of maltreated adolescents. Findings from the current study will be used to create a standardized assessment battery that residential staff and emergency care providers can utilize in the drafting of treatment and intervention plans. Thus, the current study has tremendous implications for improving our understanding of the mechanisms underlying emotional competence development and how to intervene with high-risk populations that tend to demonstrate extreme deficits in emotional functioning.

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t: Choice Blindness and Eyewitness Identification

Rachel Greenspan
Psychology and Social Behavior
Co-authors: Kevin Cochran (UCI), Dr. Elizabeth Loftus (UCI)

Most people believe that they make decisions through an uncomplicated, straightforward process. When making a choice, they look at their options and simply pick the one they prefer most. However, research shows that insight into one’s decision making is poor. Recent studies even indicate that memory for recently made choices is so malleable that people can be led to remember choosing an option they actually did not. In one study participants were asked to choose which of two faces they found more attractive. Afterwards, they were shown the face they picked and asked to explain their choice. Unbeknownst to participants, researchers used a card trick such that the face participants viewed was actually the face they had not chosen. Nearly 75% of these participants did not notice the switch and many participants even created reasons why they chose this previously unselected face.

In a laboratory setting, findings such as these give researchers insight into memory and decision making processes. However, when applied beyond the laboratory, these factors grow into critical issues for the legal system. When an eyewitness picks someone from a lineup, it is common for police to make a written record of this response. Later, the witness may view this record, but what happens if the officer mistakenly miss-records the witness’ response? Extending from results of previous literature, it is possible, even likely the witness would not notice the error, and may incorporate the misinformation into their existing memory. This process is investigated in the current study.

In this study, participants watched a fake robbery and identified the culprit from a lineup. Later, they were shown a photograph of the man they chose from the lineup and explained their reasons for choosing this person. However, for some participants, the picture shown was not the person they chose. Instead, it was a different photograph from the lineup. Results show that over half of participants failed to notice that the picture they were shown was not the one they originally selected. Moreover, this misinformation affected later memory. When later asked to identify the original culprit from a lineup, participants who were earlier shown the incorrect photograph were more likely to change their lineup decision, often choosing the other picture they were shown. Thus, not only did the misinformation impair the witness’ original memory, making it more difficult to convict the true perpetrator, it also falsely implicated an innocent suspect.

Organizational Engagement with Regulatory Change: Analyzing the Impact of Media and Status

Harsh Jha

One of the key issues in public policy research is the role played by non-state organizations in policy formulation. How these organizations engage, or fail to engage, with the regulatory change process is a critical question because the level and pattern of engagement may affect the influence these organizations have on policy formulation. Policy formulation may be the prerogative of the state, but almost all policy formulation in legislative democracies includes a public feedback processes from relevant organizations and is also susceptible to behind the scenes lobbying by special interest groups. In this paper I explore this issue of organizational engagement with regulatory change process through the study of the antecedents of the Legal Services Act (LSA 2007) passed by the British parliament. asIn 2007 the British Parliament passed the Legal Services Act for England and Wales. LSA 2007 was a wide ranging market based reform regulation which fundamentally challenged the three key pillars of the legal profession. This legislation removed the entry barriers on non-lawyers from practicing law, allowed non-lawyers to control and own law firms and removed professional self-regulation by creating non-professional regulatory body. The fact that such a highly stable field, the last major regulatory change in legal profession in England happened in 1848, underwent such drastic change makes this case a compelling and vivid instance for exploring how organizations engage with regulatory change. In this paper I analyze organizational engagement with three critical events preceding LSA 2007 – release of discussion paper, royal commission, & joint parliamentary commission – and argue that media coverage and organizational status are key drivers of organizational engagement. I use a mix of quantitative and qualitative research methods and archival and interview data collection techniques. Unlike most prior research, which included media as an undifferentiated aggregate, I analyze the effect of media coverage across multiple distinct channels, that is, mass, business and trade media. The results suggest that the level of media coverage of critical events has differential affect on organizational engagement. I find that mass media affects the engagement of small law firms, NGOs and policy think tanks; business media affects big law firms and corporate organizations; while trade media affects legal professionals. Further, I find that high status organizations publicly engage in the later stage events, whereas low status organizations engage in the early stage events. These findings present a novel model for explaining organizational influence on policy formulation.

Cumulative Inequalities in Criminal Justice Institutions: Racial & Geographic Biases

Nick Petersen

Research has uncovered racial disparities in the implementation of capital punishment. However, the death penalty literature primarily focuses on the final stages of capital prosecution, paying little attention to biases at earlier stages in the process. As such, we know that race shapes death penalty outcomes, but we do not know how or why. To understand the locus of racial bias within the death penalty system I examine the chain of events producing death sentences. Analyzing data on several thousand homicide victims and defendants from Los Angeles County (California), I answer two overarching research questions: (1) to what extent are racial and geographic biases present in Los Angeles County’s death penalty system?; and (2) do racial and geographic disparities accumulate across multiple stages of the criminal justice system? Multilevel regressions indicate that individual and neighborhood-level demographics influence the funneling of cases through Los Angeles County’s death penalty system, shaping police and prosecutorial responses to homicide. Moreover, racial and geographic biases accumulate across stages of the criminal justice system, producing stark disparities at later stages in the process. Results contribute to ongoing debates about capital punishment and organizational theories of inequality.