Drunk Eyewitnesses Are Just As Reliable As Sober Eyewitnesses

Would you trust the testimony of a witness who admitted to being drunk while observing a crime? You should.

Vodka Screwdriver

Wikimedia Commons

A new study from the psychology department of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden sought to discover whether alcohol consumption really does lessen your ability to observe and remember. There's already an interesting theory about this--it's called alcoholic myopia theory, and it posits that when under the influence of alcohol, people actually pay more attention to environmental cues judged to be salient, and less attention to environmental cues that aren't salient.

But the findings actually contradicted this theory. Three groups of testers were chosen, and given either plain orange juice, orange juice with enough vodka to reach a 0.04 percent blood alcohol concentration, or orange juice with enough vodka to reach a 0.07 percent blood alcohol level (the latter being just under the legal driving limit in the US and UK, which means these are not really drunk people--just tipsy). Then each group was shown a short video, from a witness's perspective, of a kidnapping at a bus station.

After a week, the participants were brought back and asked to look at an eight-person lineup in which, randomly, the kidnapper from the video may or may not be. The participants were then asked if the kidnapper was in the lineup, and if so, to identify him.

Interestingly, the participants with the highest blood alcohol level actually scored higher than either of the other two groups (though not significantly). That said, none of the scores were particularly good; even the best group was only slightly better than chance. Still, it's a really interesting study. Read more about it here.