Eyewitness Testimony Essay

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ABSTRACT It is seen on television, the witness is asked, “Do you see the person who committed the crime in this courtroom?” The witness says yes and points their finger at the defendant. But, is this truly the person who committed the crime? Perhaps, the eyewitness is wrong. Despite the recognition among judges, lawyers, and psychologists that human memory is far from accurate, eyewitness testimony continues to play a major role in our court system. Then why do jurors believe the testimony of an eyewitness? Research has shown that we should not trust eyewitness reports because the human brain tends to remember things differently than what it actually is. There are specific changes that should be taken in our court system to make jury members aware of the potential inaccuracies in eyewitness testimony. There is sound evidence showing that the testimony provided by eyewitnesses is not accurate. The human brain is not a video recorder, we all see things differently depending on our age, sex, and experiences in life. In addition, our perception of an event depends on the following factors: observational point of view, attentiveness, any special attentional focus that might reduce observations, familiarity with the event and details, and expectations about what occurred and understanding of it (Haber, 2000). When viewing an event such as a crime, our senses are overwhelmed with a large amount of external stimulation. Our brain generates additional stimulation from our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. To remember this event with all this stimulation the memory must be encoded into memory. For this encoding to happen, we must attend to it at the time it overcomes our senses (Haber, 2000). However, it is not possible to attend to all this information at once. We must be selective in choosing which aspects to retain. Do we remember the obvious and

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