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Blame conformity: Innocent bystanders can be blamed for a crime as a result of misinformation from a young, but not elderly, adult co-witness


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Description: This study examined whether or not exposing an eyewitness to a co-witness statement that incorrectly blames an innocent bystander for a crime can increase the likelihood of the eyewitness subsequently blaming the innocent bystander for the crime. It also examined whether or not the perceived age of the co-witness influences this effect. Participant eyewitnesses first watched a video of a crime featuring a perpetrator and an innocent bystander. They then read one of six bogus co-witness statements about the crime. All were presented as having been written by a female co-witness and they differed in terms of her age (young adult or elderly) and who she blamed for the crime (the perpetrator, the innocent bystander, or nobody). One week later, participants were asked who committed the crime. When the young adult co-witness had blamed the innocent bystander, just over 40% of participants subsequently did the same. Few participants (<8%) in the other conditions subsequently blamed the innocent bystander. The elderly co-witness was also rated as less credible, less competent, and less accurate than the younger co-witness suggesting eyewitnesses were less likely to be influenced by her incorrect statement as they perceived her to be a less reliable source of information. The attached Excel file contains the data from this study. It contains six tabs, with one for each of the six conditions in this study (old co-witness control statement, old co-witness correct statement, old co-witness incorrect statement, young co-witness control statement, young co-witness correct statement, young co-witness incorrect statement). Within each tab, you will find participants ID number, age, gender, four columns showing each possible blame response (with a score of 1 in a column indicating this is the option a participant chose), the number of multiple-choice questions (out of 9) that participants answered about the crime correctly, incorrectly, or responded don’t know, the participants response when asked how old the co-witness was one week after being exposed to her picture/statement, and the participants rating of the co-witness (on a scale of 1 – 7) in terms of her accuracy, confidence, honesty, credibility, and competence.


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