Does Talking About Emotions Influence Eyewitness Memory? The Role of Emotional vs. Factual Retelling on Memory Accuracy

Emanuela Soleti, Antonietta Curci, Antonella Bianco, Tiziana Lanciano


Eyewitnesses typically talk about the crimes they have seen. The different ways in which a witness talks can also influence later recollections. Indeed individuals can talk about crimes in order to cope with their negative emotions or to provide a detailed report. In the current study we investigated the role of factual vs. emotional retelling on memory accuracy of individuals who have eyewitnessed and discussed an emotional event. Participants were shown a video in which a quarrel between strangers was evident, then they were assigned to one out of three experimental conditions, i.e., (a) talking in group about emotional reactions to the video, (b) talking in group about factual details of the video; (c) completing an unrelated task. We employed a novel procedure in groups that ensured more ecological validity; retelling with other co-eyewitnesses in fact resembles real life situation. Eyewitnesses’ memory for details of the video was assessed immediately before the retelling session and after a short delay. Results showed that while factual retelling prevents memory impairment over time, emotional retelling determined less detailed memories. Implications for forensic assessments of eyewitness’ memory were discussed.


memory accuracy; factual retelling; emotional retelling; eyewitness testimony

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