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Experimental Design in the Laboratory: How to Measure the Difference Between Alcohol-Intoxicated and Sober Witnesses’ Memories of a Crime

By: Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 2
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Eyewitnesses are an important source of information in many criminal investigations. Alcohol-related crimes are common, and intoxicated witnesses are also common. However, few published studies have examined how alcohol affects eyewitnesses’ memories. This case study describes how the author as a PhD student examined the differences between intoxicated and sober witnesses’ memories of a fictive crime in a laboratory setting using an experimental design. The author has extensive experience of laboratory research on alcohol and witness memory as she has worked on this topic since 2010. The aim of this case study was to highlight the advantages and disadvantages of conducting alcohol-related experiments in a laboratory to assess memory performance. Hopefully, this case study will facilitate important decisions that have to be taken during the research process. For example, in experimental research, it is crucial to have a methodologically sound design before starting to collect data. First, an overview is presented with important issues (e.g., ethical permission) that need to be taken care of before starting this kind of research. Second, the strengths and weaknesses of experimental research conducted in laboratories versus quasi-experimental studies in the field are considered in the context of examining how alcohol affects witness memory. Third, the reader is walked through the different experimental phases. The conclusion summarizes some of the advantages and disadvantages associated with carrying out experimental studies of this type in the laboratory.

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Experimental design

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