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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: ,