Eyewitness identification: Simulating the "Weapon effect"

Anne Maass, Günther Köhnken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present experiment investigates the effect of weapons on eyewitness recall and recognition using a new experimental paradigm in which a syringe serves as weapon simulation. Contrary to previous weapon manipulations using slides or films of armed targets, the syringe paradigm is personally threatening to the subject. In a 2×2 design, 86 nonpsychology students were approached by an experimenter who was either holding a syringe or a pen and either did or did not threaten to administer an injection. Exposure to the syringe greatly decreased lineup recognition, p<.05, while enhancing the accuracy of recall for hand cues, p<.05. Contrary to predictions derived from the cue utilization hypothesis, threat of injection was not found to interact with the syringe manipulation. Investigation of individual differences indicated greater accuracy of recall for facial details the lower the subjects' fear of injections and the greater their cognitive abilities (closure and memory).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-408
Number of pages12
JournalLaw and Human Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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