Year of Publication

2012

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Toglia

Second Advisor

Dr. Randy Russac

Department Chair

Dr. Michael Toglia

College Dean

Dr. Barbara A. Hetrick

Abstract

The Wechsler Memory Scale –iii is the newest version of a six-decade old neuropsychological inventory. Since its conception, the Wechsler Memory Scale has been highly utilized by practitioners to accurately assess various memory functions in adult subjects. Revisions made within this inventory include the Faces I subtest, a facial recognition scale, which was added in order to strengthen the instrument’s accuracy at measuring episodic memory. Facial recognition, both cross-race and within-race, has been researched extensively and consistent biases have been found between race of test taker and cross-racial identification. Theories of exposure/contextual interaction (environment) and biological foundations have been the subject of study in the past in order to determine from where these racial identification deficits stem. The current study focuses on revealing bias in the Faces I subtest, regarding to an unequal distribution of racially representative faces in the testing materials. Eighty-eight college students were recruited to view forty-eight pictured faces from the Faces I subtest and determine the racial category to which the pictured face belonged. The subjects’ categorical responses were the basis for calculating a percent agreement score for racial category of each face. It was determined, using the results of subjects’ responses, that the Faces I subtest contained an unequal distribution of racially representative faces in both the Target and Interference testing material. This confirmed the presence of an inherent bias within the subscale. The implications of memory accuracy for the WMS-iii are discussed as it relates to different fields of study, but none more directly than the criminal justice system. Eyewitness testimony is a pivotal evidentiary tool in the criminal justice system, and ramifications of cross-racial identification deficits and biases in the tools to accurately assess memory are increasingly bringing this once heavily relied upon tool into question.

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