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"Eyewitness testimony differs from many other aspects of memory in that accuracy is of much greater importance" Consider what psychological research has told us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is defined as, "an ar...

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Introduction

"Eyewitness testimony differs from many other aspects of memory in that accuracy is of much greater importance" Consider what psychological research has told us about the accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Eyewitness testimony is defined as, "an area of research that investigates the accuracy of memory following an accident, crime, or other significant event, and the types of errors that are commonly made in such situations." Much emphasis is placed on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony as often-inaccurate eyewitness testimony can have serious consequences leading to wrong convictions. Eyewitness testimony is a powerful tool within any field, particularly that of justice, as it is a readily accepted form of evidence that allows for convictions. However, Tests conducted by Loftus have shown an enormous swing from a non-guilty verdict, to guilty within the same case, simply through the introduction of an eyewitness. This alone displays the importance of eyewitness testimony, and accentuates the theory that jurors tend to over believe, or at least rely heavily on such accounts. In this essay I shall discuss the work and research contributed by Bartlett, and Loftus as to whether accuracy plays a vital role in eyewitness testimony compared to other aspects of memory use. Retrieval failure is an everyday experience for many of us. We also often experience problems with storing new information. This usually occurs because simply the person concerned is not paying attention. ...read more.

Middle

(Extracted from "our changeable memories-Elizabeth Loftus) the use of fake photographs is a powerful technique for implanting memories. Subjects were shown a false photograph of a hot air balloon. They were asked to tell "everything they remember without leaving anything out no matter how trivial it may seem." 505 recalled the hot air balloon ride that had never occurred. These studies and many more show that people can develop beliefs and memories for events that did not happen to them. While researchers continue to investigate false memories, it is evident that there are already lessons to be learnt. The fact that the memories of victims and witnesses can be false or inaccurate even though they believe them to be true has important implications for the legal system. Unfortunately in its present state, eyewitness evidence tends to convict innocent individuals in a devastatingly high proportion, estimated at 45% (Loftus & Ketcham, 1991). The cause, as pointed out by many social psychologists, is directly related to casual remarks and body messages that take place between the eyewitnesses and those who administer suspect line-ups and photo spreads. Positive feedback by the administer can artificially increase the confidence level of the eyewitness by possibly inspiring false perceptions such as "if the police believe it, then they must be right" One of the things that can happen when you place a victim of a serious offence together with a police investigator is the wanting to achieve goals. ...read more.

Conclusion

Unless the research is designed to insure that the underlying processes have been adequately simulated in the laboratory settings, it is unscientific and unwise to generalize the results to real witnesses. It is difficult to create the relevant processes in laboratory studies (e.g., we cannot reconstruct in a laboratory the experiences of an actual rape victim). Some may argue then, that until experiments are carried out that do involve the real life conditions and memory process experienced by real life eye witnesses it is not possible to generalize the results and they therefore are not valid in proving accuracy of eyewitness testimony. Having discussed the importance of eyewitness testimony it seems accuracy is vital, especially since currently these accounts can alone conclude the final verdict of a case. Accuracy may be considered more important in eyewitness testimony than in any other memory use on the basis that the consequences of eyewitness accounts can be severe, and is not to be taken light-heartedly. However, eyewitness testimony can play a beneficial part in the criminal justice system if factors such as police procedures are controlled under the strict guidelines. It should be kept in mind though, that even if all the social aspects mentioned are completely controlled, there still remains the possibility that errors will continue to occur due to memory recall errors, and overly emotional witnesses who simply wish to see someone punished for their crimes. But regardless of this fact, there would undoubtedly be a remarkable recovery from the present 45% wrongful conviction rate as displayed within many studies. ...read more.

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