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Posts Tagged ‘Eyewitness Testimony’

Exonerate the Innocent!

November 26th, 2013 6 comments

Many innocent people are wrongly convicted of crimes every year, and many of these wrongful convictions are due to a mistaken identification during eyewitness testimony. In many criminal investigations, eyewitness identification can be a deciding factor in the case. The Innocence Project (2012) has exonerated 289 people in the U.S. based on DNA evidence. About 75% of those wrongfully imprisoned were people mistakenly identified in a line-up. (To learn more about the Innocence Project, click here.) Surprisingly, recent data have shown that approximately a third of witnesses for line-ups are children younger than 16 years old. The data also show that about a third of these children under 16 are likely to make a false identification of an innocent person as the culprit. It goes without saying that there can be very serious and severe outcomes for people as a result of false identification. For these reasons, research on eyewitness testimony has become more important and prominent in recent times.  Read more…

False Memories in the News: Are Pictures Worth MORE Than 1,000 Words?

November 26th, 2013 4 comments

Close your eyes and imagine every news story you’ve ever heard in your life. What do you picture? You probably remember the big events: 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, etc. The flashbulb memories; the ones you remember in perfect clarity to the point where you could even remember where you were and what you were doing when you found out about the event. You also remember these events in pictures, right? In all likelihood, you don’t remember the news anchor sitting there telling you about the day, or the words printed on a newspaper. You remember images of the event. Those are the ones that stick in your brain. Well what if those pictures cause people to falsely remember events in the news?

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Innocent Criminal: The Science behind Inaccurate Eye-witness Testimony.

April 30th, 2013 8 comments

Innocent Criminal: The Science behind Inaccurate Eye-witness Testimony

Ever noticed CSI shows? Every time a crime is committed, the potential perpetrator is told to stand behind a glass frame. Along with him or her are more people. What’s intriguing about all of this is that every single “false criminal” looks very similar to the original criminal. Whether it be the tattoos, the similar age, or maybe even the clothing, there is a sense of similarity across the spectrum. That similarity is done for a reason. Suspects who have distinctive features like a birthmark or scar were the easiest to identify in a line-up. To prevent any bias, all those in the lineup have similar features and physical stature to the perpetrator. While in theory this seems legitimate, in reality there are flaws. Previous research has shown that older adults show a decline in visual discrimination over time. Recollection of facts and events gets more difficult as people age, so older adults struggle to connect faces to distinctive features. This supports the idea that older adults with associative deficit hypothesis have a harder time identifying distinct features of a face when they are presented with other faces that look familiar.

Research has shown that eyewitness testimony is not a very accurate way to identify suspects who may have committed a crime; yet, eyewitness testimony is one of the most critical pieces of evidence that investigators use to build a case. New research is being done to figure out ways that law enforcement can help individuals who may have witnessed a crime, properly identify the perpetrator. Distinctive features such as moles or tattoos are things that help differentiate people. Witnesses rely heavily on these distinctive features when they are asked to identify a suspect.

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Categories: Aging, Memory Tags: ,

Remembering the deceitful in one glance

April 30th, 2013 5 comments

I remember my cousin giving me tips on how to be left alone while riding the subway. “Wear a hooded sweatshirt that is too big for you,” Chris said, “and also wear headphones with music too loud, rap is always good. And put on a mean look, like you’re not someone to mess with; be unfriendly. No one wants to mess with me when I do that, they take one look at me and they stay away. It usually gets me a bench all to myself.” At first, hearing this surprised me. I couldn’t believe that people were that quick to judge others but I found myself thinking of all the times I had ridden on the bus or train. With one glance at someone I was able to make judgments on whether or not to sit near them. Chris’ description of how to keep people away fit my own judgment of who to stay clear of. That was when I first realized how much people rely on first impressions. Most times, our first impressions are based on the appearance of a person; their physical appearance.  Our judgments are usually quick and automatic and don’t necessarily change until we interact with the other person more.

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The Faulty Eyewitness Testimony–I’m sure I saw him!

April 30th, 2013 4 comments

“Most cases don’t turn on DNA evidence. Most turn on eyewitness testimony and admissions by defendants.”

—-District Attorney General of U.S.—Barry P. Staubus

It’s often said that seeing is believing, but many times our memories can be  misleading or even completely inaccurate. It might be no big deal in our daily life to mistakenly remember something, but in a courtroom, it could possibly send an innocent man to prison or even to the electric chair. One of the most frequently used and widely accepted pieces of evidence in today’s trials is eyewitness testimony, in which a witness is asked to pick the potential suspect out of a lineup, or to describe the characteristics of the perpetrator so that the police could run it through the data base and come up with an ID. However, as our memories could potentially be inaccurate, eyewitness testimonies are not always 100 percent true. In a significant number of criminal trials, the identification could be completely wrong and because the witness is “very confident” about the identification, an innocent man would wind up in jail.

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