Improving time estimation in witness memory
The present study sought to determine whether witness memory for duration could be improved. In three studies, we examined the effects of unpacking (breaking an event into its component parts), anchoring (supplying participants with a reference duration), and summation (summing component estimates). Participants watched a video-recorded mock crime and provided duration estimates for components of the crime (e.g., casing the car, unlocking the door, etc.) and for the total crime. Results indicate that bias in estimated duration was less for the sum of the parts than it was for the overall duration estimate. Further, the sum of the individual parts did not equal the total estimate, even though all estimates were given in sequence. Summing the component parts could be a more successful intervention than anchoring or unpacking and is easy to employ with witnesses.