Exploring eyewitness performance of vulnerable adult witnesses with mental health disorders

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Winchester

Principal Researcher

Beth Parsons

Level of Research


Project Start Date

November 2016

Research Context

The main aim of this study is to investigate eyewitness performance in typical and vulnerable witnesses exposed to a mock staged crime. More specifically, it sets out to explore the capabilities of witnesses with a mental health disorder with a particular focus on anxiety and depression.

Within the literature, there is extensive research on the factors than can influence both the quality and quantity of eyewitness evidence, however one factor that has received little attention is witness vulnerability and particularly mental health. The need for research regarding vulnerability is vitally important within the field of forensic psychology as criminal incidences involving vulnerable persons are widespread, whether it be as a victim or a witness.

While a number of studies have examined eyewitness memory accuracy in vulnerable persons such as those with an intellectual disability, very little research to date has explored this issue in relation to mental health and particularly with regard to anxiety and depression. This is a concern given that these are two of the most prevalent mental health disorders encountered within the community. Although there is literature to suggest that these conditions are associated with memory problems, little effort has been made to investigate eyewitness memory specifically and the effect that mental health might have on the accuracy and reliability of eyewitness performance. There is a need for further research on this matter in order to contribute to the knowledge-base surrounding the capabilities of such witnesses and this can only be beneficial to the legal system and those working within it who support such individuals.

Research Methodology

‚ÄčThis research will involve approximately 20 typical participants with no mental health disorders, 20 vulnerable participants with anxiety and depression, and 20 vulnerable participants with anxiety only.

Interim reports and publications

‚ÄčNot available

Date due for completion

June 2019
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