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Looking down the barrel of a gun: what do we know about the weapon focus effect?

Faculty Advisor




weapon focus, eyewitness memory, novelty, arousal, threat

Abstract (summary)

Eyewitness memory for the perpetrator or circumstances of a crime is generally worse for scenarios involving weapons compared to those involving non-weapon objects—a pattern known for decades as the weapon focus effect. But despite ample support from laboratory experiments and recognition by experts, testimony concerning weapon focus is rarely admissible in court. The present article summarizes a selection of key findings within the weapon focus literature and considers whether the effect warrants consideration by the criminal justice system at this time. We conclude that weapon focus is sufficiently robust and uncontroversial to guide practice so long as consideration is given to the circumstances surrounding the criminal event with a particular emphasis on witness expectation.

Publication Information

Fawcett, J. M., Peace, K. A., & Greve, A. (2016). Looking down the barrel of a gun: What do we know about the weapon focus effect? (Invited Article). Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 5, 257-263. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2016.07.005


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