Effects of Support Dogs on Eyewitness Anxiety during Questioning

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Being an eyewitness to a crime can be a traumatic event, especially if the eyewitness is the victim. In addition, following the crime the witness is susceptible to being distressed further during questioning. The current research examined the effects a trained support dog would have on mock witnesses’ anxiety (as measured by heartrate) during questioning. Participants observed a video and answered questions from an actual uniformed police officer, similar to a normal eyewitness interview. During the interview, participants were either presented with a support dog or a glass of water (control). Results indicated that while the uniformed officer increased participants’ anxiety significantly, the support dog successfully decreased anxiety almost to the point of baseline, and significantly more than the control condition. Implications and real-world application are discussed.

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