chapter  15
Stress, Arousal, and Children's Eyewitness Memory
Pages 20

Studies of the effect of arousal on witness identification accuracy of adult subjects have been reviewed by Deffenbacher (1983, 1991). Deffenbacher concluded that for those studies in which the "violence level or intensity of personal threat has been successfully manipulated" (Deffenbacher, 1991, p. 388), higher levels of stress are associated with reduced eyewitness accuracy for the majority of subjects across 15 studies. This finding runs counter to the assumption among most criminal court judges that the veridical perception of eyewitnesses is aided by high arousal (Deffenbacher, 1983), and is contrary to a similar view expressed by a large number of prosecuting attorneys. In contrast, the sentiments of law enforcement personnel and criminal defense attorneys in several surveys are consistent with the finding that high arousal or stress will negatively impact eyewitness identification (Brigham, 1981; Brigham & Wolfskeil, 1983). Studies of laypeople's opinions, including those in mock jury studies, have produced equivocal findings. Some report a strong belief in stress as a facilitator of eyewitness accuracy

(e.g., Hastie, 1980), whereas others find little support for this position (e.g., Deffenbacher & Loftus, 1982).