Applied Cognitive Psychology

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Understanding the weapon focus effect: The role of threat, unusualness, exposure duration, and scene complexity

Summary We examined the role of exposure duration and scene complexity on the weapon focus effect (WFE). Memory for the mock crime was affected more by a weapon than an unusual but nonthreatening object. Threat reduced correct identifications when the event was short but not long; duration of the event did not interact with unusualness. Additionally, we found a WFE for target‐absent lineup decisions, but only for the accomplice lineup, not the object‐wielding perpetrator's lineup. We discuss the implications of these results for illuminating the mechanisms that elicit the WFE.

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