Off-campus UNL users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your NU ID and password. When you are done browsing please remember to return to this page and log out.

Non-UNL users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

How Does Stress at Time of Identification Affect Eyewitness Memory

Kimberly S Dellapaolera, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Research has revealed that stress at the time of the event has a negative effect on eyewitness memory; however, research is lacking on stress at the time of the identification. The present research set out to determine how stress at the time of an identification affects eyewitness memory for an event. In order to test this research question, the present study utilized the Socially Evaluated Cold Pressor Task (SECPT; event stress, or D1) and Trier Social Stress Test (identification stress, or D2), and their non-stress counterparts (friendly-Trier Social Stress Test, control-Cold Pressor Task; c-CPT) across two sessions. The SECPT/c-CPT procedures introduced To-Be-Remembered-stimuli that participants were subsequently tested on during the recall and recognition tasks.Participants in the stress induction conditions (both D1 and D2) had significantly higher cortisol levels, blood pressure/heart rate, and subjective stress than participants in the non-stress induction conditions (both D1 and D2). Results of the memory tests revealed that participants recalled significantly more central details than peripheral details, regardless of stress condition. There was a more pronounced effect of D1 stress on peripheral than on central details, though this finding was not consistent across recall and recognition tasks. Additionally, there were no significant differences in lineup accuracy across stress and control conditions for D1 or D2, although stress at D1 (but not stress at D2) marginally increased choosing behavior. Results revealed a significant confidence-accuracy correlation, which varied across conditions. Lastly, there was some support for the main research question, such that participants in the control condition at D2 remembered significantly more details than participants in the stress condition at D2. Although this finding was not consistent across all memory tests, it presents some evidence to support the hypothesis that stress occurring at the time of identification (retrieval) may negatively affect memory, regardless of whether the event itself was stressful.

Subject Area

Psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Dellapaolera, Kimberly S, "How Does Stress at Time of Identification Affect Eyewitness Memory" (2019). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI22582828.