Considering the native land of witnesses: cultural influences on memory reports

Information obtained from eyewitnesses is an important piece of evidence in criminal investigations. In an era of increased migration and globalisation, investigative and legal practitioners inevitably handle eyewitness memory reports obtained in cross-cultural contexts. Obtaining eyewitness memory reports in cross-cultural settings can be challenging if insight into culturally determined reporting norms is limited.

This programme of research examined the potential role culture plays in shaping eyewitness accounts. The programme of research is the first to comprehensively examine cultural differences in the content and nature of eyewitness memory reports. In a series of experiments, eyewitness memory reports of individuals socialised in sub-Saharan African cultures and Western European cultures were examined. The research shows witnesses with sub-Saharan African background are less elaborative in their eyewitness accounts than witnesses socialised in Western European cultures. Findings are discussed with respect to culturally determined reporting norms of the witness.

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