Alcohol and the legal system: effects of alcohol on eyewitness testimony

Julie Gawrylowicz, Georgina Bartlett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Intoxicated witnesses and victims are over-represented in the legal system. However, their access to a fair trial might be compromised as many lay people and law enforcement professionals consider their testimony as unreliable. Research examining the impact of alcohol intoxication on eyewitness memory has surged over the last 10 years, but compared to other areas of psychology it is still an under-researched domain. The majority of studies have found that mild to moderate alcohol intoxication can lead to less complete, but not necessarily less accurate, memory accounts. Higher doses of alcohol might increase the number of errors reported. Police officers should interview intoxicated witnesses as soon as possible after the incident has taken place, as research as shown that the detrimental impact of time is larger than that of alcohol on eyewitness memory reports. Little is known yet about the underlying mechanisms responsible for alcohol-related detrimental effects on memory performance. Future research should try to disentangle pharmacological effects from metacognitive effects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe handbook of alcohol use
Subtitle of host publicationunderstandings from synapse to society
EditorsDaniel Frings, Ian P. Albery
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780128168868
ISBN (Print)9780128167205
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jan 2021


  • Alcohol
  • Eyewtness
  • Memory
  • Testimony
  • Suggestibility
  • Hypervigilance
  • Alcohol myopia
  • Disinhibition

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