Edit Barnoth compares eyewitness reliability in sober and intoxicated people
Edit Barnoth had originally completed an economics degree but it had always been a dream of hers to study psychology.
“Applying to study BSc (Hons) Psychology at London South Bank University was an easy decision,” says Edit, “and it’s also turned out to be the best one I ever made. The location was ideal for me and the course was just what I was looking for.”
Edit knew from her first day at LSBU that she was going to take every opportunity she could to learn more about the subject she loved – inside and outside the lecture theatre.
“I was an active member of the Psychological Society and the Ethical and Environmental Officer for the Students’ Union,” she says. “I was also the course representative for two years, which helped me see both the student and academic sides of some of the issues that can crop up while studying a degree.”
It was an experience that fascinated Edit.
“I was passionate about securing a fair resolution to issues, and I was happy to be the students’ voice,” she says.
“I looked for extra opportunities and responsibility wherever it was appropriate. I volunteered at the Blackfriars Settlement as a befriender, visiting elderly ladies in their homes once a week to keep them company and talk about whatever interested them.”
It was an opportunity Edit had found through LSBU’s volunteering database, and an experience that she thoroughly enjoyed.
Closer to her academic pursuits, Edit worked in the Psychology Division at LSBU. “I volunteered as a Research Assistant for two years – working first on one of my lecturers’ projects that led to subsequent Research Assistant jobs with other academics in the Division. As a result, I was involved in a large project in collaboration with the University of Cambridge,” she says.
Edit enjoyed developing her knowledge further through these experiences: “LSBU focuses largely on addiction from both the cognitive and the social psychological approach, therefore the projects I worked on also employed these approaches either individually or in combination with each other,” she explains.
As for the course itself, Edit loved every second – but she remembers her project with particular fondness.
“It compared eyewitness reliability in sober and intoxicated people,” she says. “Eyewitnesses often encounter false information about what they have witnessed, and may later recall that information as a memory item – it’s known as the misinformation effect.”
Edit’s research investigated this effect in intoxicated and sober participants. “I was particularly interested in the time of alcohol consumption in relation to the witnessed event,” she says. “People often witness a minor crime while they are sober or mildly intoxicated and then continue drinking afterwards, not thinking they might be interviewed about the event. In those cases, I found that alcohol may serve as a protective agent of the original memory and renders intoxicated witnesses as reliable as sober ones.”
The project was based on previous research that Edit had worked on with one of her lecturers. “After we published the related research paper, we decided to look at the misinformation paradigm from a more ‘real life’ perspective,” she says. “We used LSBU’s Pub Lab and invited groups of people to take part in it.”
The research could have a significant impact, as the criminal justice system relies heavily on the memories of eyewitnesses. Many crimes in the UK take place in public and are associated with alcohol consumption, so finding out whether alcohol is detrimental or beneficial for eyewitness memory is very important.
“It’s especially relevant because the common beliefs about alcohol consumption are generally negative and intoxicated eyewitnesses’ credibility is often questioned,” says Edit.
During the project, Edit says that she received great support.
“Professor Ian Albery guided me through the project, but let me enjoy lots of independence at the same time,” she says. “The communication with Prof. Albery was sufficient and enough to make me feel confident whilst also allowing me to handle research matters by myself.”
In fact, Edit found all members of staff to be extremely supportive throughout her studies. “I found that my academics were approachable and always happy to have a chat about any academic issues I might have faced,” she explains.
The willingness of our academic staff to provide opportunities to learn and grow beyond the curriculum was something that Edit particularly appreciated.
“The Division went beyond teaching theories and offered numerous lectures, given by external lecturers, professors or professionals, so that students have a clearer view about how psychology may be applied in the real world in different fields,” she says.
Edit was also impressed by the support sessions the Psychology Division offers to all students, which act as a forum for asking questions about coursework and empirical research. “It’s definitely something that people should make the most of at LSBU, because it is an excellent support system,” she says.
Edit utilised our ‘Pub Lab’ for her project work, “The bar itself was a vital part of my research. It’s a dedicated facility that is set up like a real pub, which means the results of the studies you carry out there have high validity,” says Edit.
Edit was also able to make use of some of our other excellent facilities for experiments.
“I had access to a lab that is set up to take physiological measurements, mostly as a response to physiological stimuli,” she explains. “I found it fascinating to learn how stress responses to certain stimuli can be monitored and recorded, and how tools like that can help us to understand them.”
Her project was a significant experience for Edit, as it opened her eyes to a career in research.
“I felt that it was a turning point in my studies,” she says. “It gave me a view into the profession I want to pursue. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to do. And I can’t thank LSBU and the academic staff enough for helping me realise this.”
Given Edit’s newly-discovered love for research, it will come as little surprise to learn that she is planning to continue her career in academia.
“I’d love to move onto a PhD next, and there’s a chance I will get a scholarship to do so,” she says. “If not, I will continue my studies with an MSc course and try again for a PhD the following year.”