Eyewitness memory


I am recruiting a PhD student to investigate the characteristics and limitations of memory for stressful events. Furthermore, we are also interested in how stressful events can influence psychological wellbeing.


Dr Helen Paterson

Research Location

School of Psychology

Program Type



Eyewitness testimony can provide critical leads for police investigating an offence and can be extremely persuasive to triers of fact in court. However, limited police resources often restrict the ability of the police to interview witnesses for several days or even weeks after an incident has occurred. Moreover, witnesses are sometimes unwilling to provide a statement about an event straight after it has occurred. For example, victims of ongoing incidents (such as domestic abuse or bullying) may suffer for some time before they decide to lodge an official complaint. A serious problem associated with this delay in reporting is that forgetting occurs very rapidly (Schacter, 2001). Therefore, there is a critical need to preserve memory in the immediate aftermath of an incident.  To address this need, immediate recall tools have been developed to preserve and protect eyewitness memory. Preliminary research on such tools has been promising, suggesting that they can protect eyewitness memory from decay (e.g., Gabbert, Hope, & Fisher, 2009; McPhee, Paterson & Kemp, 2014) and are useful for police investigations (Hope, Gabbert, & Fisher, 2011).  However, there are several important questions that need to be investigated including:   1)     What effect do witness factors, event factors, and modality of evidence have on the effectiveness of immediate recall tools in terms of memory preservation?2)     What effect does the use of immediate recall tools have on psychological responses to witnessed events?3)     How do contemporaneous eyewitness accounts collected using immediate recall tools affect legal processes? 

Additional Information

I am seeking a PhD student who would be interested in: 1) investigating the limitations of human memory and 2) developing appropriate procedures for eyewitnesses to preserve the integrity of their memories for critical events.

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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psychology, forensic, eyewitness, testimony, memory

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1568