Would you be a good eye witness?

My blog today is all about taking in things around you.

If there was a car accident or a crime was committed and you were a witness, would you be able to be an accurate witness for the police?  This follows on from my blog last week of what we remember.

We only really remember what we need to and if it rehearsed then we can store it in our Long Term memory.  There is the danger that if we try and remember an event that happened and we over think it we can start adding things into the event and making our own memories of what we have seen.. Therefore not making it a very accurate interpretation of events.

Are some people better than others at remembering things that they have seen and being  more visually and spatial aware of their surroundings than others?

Here are a few clips some of them you may have seen before.

Watch the first clip and follow the instructions:

The second clip is of a film the shining and as in many films some things are recorded wrong and not true to real life.

How many of you who have seen the film the shining have already spotted these things?

Having a learning difficulty can effect the way we take things in and remember every day things around us as it influences several cognitive skills.  It is suggested that people with learning difficulties proved the best evidence in court as they give the most important details even if there testimony is short it is vital information in that short piece.

If everybody saw the same event happen, each persons account of the event would be slightly different and each testimony would contain different parts of information.  This is because each person would have something that meant something to them to remember it.    If i saw someone kick a football at someones head i would be less likely to remember that when giving an eye witness testimony account.  Whereas if someone stole a handbag, i would be able to give you size colour etc in my testimony.  Therefore we cant say that one person is more likely to give a better testimony than another.




6 thoughts on “Would you be a good eye witness?

  1. kaydem says:

    I found this post very interesting, personally i think that i would be a pretty useless eye witness as i tend to walk around in my own little world with music in my ears which would affect my account of an event. As mentioned everybody views things differently based on many things, some people may notice clothing more than facial features it all depends on the individual. Also as time passes the individuals retention of information of the event may differ as information is lost. 🙂

    • riggerb says:

      Hi yes this is a good point that our memories decay after a time and that peoples retention of information varies.

      Caroline – Yes eye witness is very important in cases of law. There are many cases where people have been jailed and then found out later that they were the wrongly person because of an inaccurate eye witness. This is a good web site to look at such cases http://karisable.com/crwrong.htm

  2. Some fascinating little clips, and these show very well that what we recall is not always what happened, this is very important in eye witness testimony as it is often a direct linking between the accused and the crime, that leads to a conviction for example someone saying that I saw him pull the gun is far more powerful than evidence of say finger prints which only ‘prove’ that the accused touched the gun at some point.

    This is very important, especially in the case of law as innocent people can and have been found guilty on the basis of testimony of people who believed they had identified the correct person committing the crime. (With the advent of DNA testing some very notable cases were over tuned as it was proved they could not have committed the crimes of which they were accused) Wells et al (1998) make some very good suggestions for ensuring that eyewitness identification in line up is a rigorous as possible: http://www.law.northwestern.edu/academics/colloquium/documents/GaryWells2.pdf

    Another element to eyewitness testimony is the way in which our attention is focused, for example Kramer, Buckhout, and Eugeniot (1990) found that in a high stress situation such as a hold up, people tended to be focused on the weapon used and not on the perpetrator, thus leading to incorrect information being provided about their appearance and the inclusion of details which had not been present (as they tried to recall facts to provide evidence) http://www.springerlink.com/content/j0617n225801pu77/fulltext.pdf

  3. An eyewitness account is something in which needs to be looked at in great detail. No one could give completely accurate account of an event due to different circumstances. For example, factors at the event could occur such as the weapons effects in which if a weapon is used the eyewitness’ are more likely to focus on the weapon rather than the actual criminal due to fear. In addition to this, post event factors occur such as media coverage and co-witness accounts. These can be fatal as if the crime is blown up and is covered and interpreted by the media, this can change a persons view and account as they may feel that the one they believe to be true isn’t anymore due to what the media has recalled.
    Loftus and Palmer, conducted a study into eyewitness accounts and the effects of leading questions. They found that leading questions do change the perspective of the witnesses, Due to this study, the courts and police can’t use leading questions in interviews anymore. In addition to this, eyewitness accounts can’t be used as the only evidence to a crime as there are a vast amount of inaccurate eyewitness accounts.

  4. evs26 says:

    I completely agree with you that often trying so hard to remember a vital event can lead to creating false memories that did not infact happen. This has been know to happen in rape cases. Sometimes the rapist represses the memory of the event through regret and starts to believe that it did not happen and in fact, it was just a simple act of pleasure between them and the victim.This The capacity of short term memory is 5 plus or minus 2 bits of information. Therefore we can only allow this specific amount of information into Long term memory if it is rehearsed.I believe that same people remember events better based on whether they have meaning to the individuals life. For example, if an individual knows a lot about football adnd is really interested in it. They are more likely to remember the events of a football match they have seen compared to someone who has no real interest in the sport. In relation to being an eye witness to a crime, e.g. assault, someone who knows the person being assaulted is more likely to remember details of the event than a passer by.

  5. Adam Gilbert says:

    It is true that eye witnesses often have difficulties in accurately remembering important details of an event that they may have witnessed. It is for reasons such as these that we study psychology and attempt to improve such things. Research such as that of Loftus and Palmer (1974) looked in to factors, such as leading questions or the use of schemas, that may affect the validity of eye witness testimony. Such psychological research led to the development of the Cognitive Interview, which is now commonly used, and has been shown to improve the validity of eye witness testimony. Therefore, we can argue that although some people, in certain situations, may naturally make better eye witnesses that others, we are largely dependent on psychological research; and it is this research and its practical implications that largely determines how good an eye witness we can be.

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