Information recall and eyewitness testimony

Published: 2020-04-27 10:39:55
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Eysenck (2000) examines the emotional factors that lead to forgetting. One of the most common cognitive reaction of a traumatizing event is repression. People may forget traumatizing experiences as a way of dealing with the trauma and pain caused by an event or incident. According to Sigmund Freud, repression is a common reaction to extremely traumatizing events to eliminate the emotional pain experienced. In an experiment conducted by Levinger and Clark, they noted that people forgot events that had negatively charged emotional attachments. He also noted the inaccuracy of witness events that had been recorded on camera owing to their emotional disturbance. He also examined the effect of anxiety on the accuracy of ones memory. He noted that when people were anxious, they had difficulty retrieving information from their memory. Anxiety and repression are therefore important factors that affect the accuracy of eyewitnesses report. The emotional status of an eyewitness and the nature of an event may affect the accuracy of an eyewitness report.

Establishing the role of familiarity in the identification of a criminal is an important step in evaluating a testimony of an eyewitness. Ross (1994) examines the probability of an innocent bystander being mistaken in a crime scene and suffering for the crimes, he has not committed. They conducted a research whereby they proved that an innocent bystander who a witness has seen before was more likely to be identified as a criminal as opposed to an extremely new face to the witness. Familiarity plays an important role in an eyewitness identification of a criminal. The familiarity might lead to an involuntary recognition of an innocent person as a criminal. The book explains how familiarity has contributed to the imprisonment of innocent bypasses who were betrayed by their familiarity to the eyewitness. The research examines a huge number of cases in which an identified criminal was innocent. Their research revealed that prior familiarity to the person led to the identification of the criminal.

Using the famous movie Rashomon as a reference, Brewer (2005) helps in revealing the inaccuracy of eyewitness evidence. In the book, Brewer states that that a human brain does not operate as a camera. Although people might see things accurately, various factors affect their interpretation of it and ultimately affect the truth of an eyewitness evidence. He uses a scene in the movie where four people witnessed a murder of a man and the rape of his wife. All the four witnesses had different accounts of the criminal activities that took place. He examines various factors that may influence differences in eyewitnesses testimonies. Among them, time between the occurrence of crime and the witness, and light and the sight of the witness. Understanding these factors is important in promoting the accuracy of a testimony.

In his article Age differences in eyewitness testimony: Law and Human Behavior Goodmant (1986) sought to reveal the accuracy of childrens accounts to a certain crime. Children of different ages were given an opportunity to interact with a stranger for at least five minutes. They were then questioned on different aspects of their interactions to get the accuracy of their testimony. Just like adults, children are victims of crimes in all parts of the world. They are witnesses of crime in different places. This study sought to determine the accuracy of their testimonies and their validity in a court. The research revealed different levels of truths that children can recall and help in getting justice. This research is useful in promoting childrens rights and their ability of giving legitimate testimonies.

In most court cases, judges depend heavily on the evidence provided by the eyewitnesses. There are more cases of increased cases where the testimonies of a psychological expert become important in making the correct decision on the factors to consider when making the correct judgment about a case. It is important that the expert evaluates the credibility of the testimony to be given and help the judge in making an informed decision in the case. The use of a psychological expert is to determine the truth in a testimony and factors that might have led to alterations in the witness evidence. It would be unfair to disregard the whole testimony because of some few errors. It would be equally unfair to use the entire evidence with errors. The psychologist is useful in ensuring that the testimony used is filtered of all inaccuracies caused by human error.

It is important to identify factors that might lead to bias of an eyewitnesses evidence to help in coming up with an accurate report of a case. Some of these factors include prejudice, inferences and expectations. A witness may be prejudiced against a suspect and therefore give false witness about a certain issue. These factors are determined by the nature of witness. Other factors may be influenced by the nature of the event. The emotional attachment of a witness to a certain event may affect the accuracy of their testimony. A witness memory processing models may affect the accuracy of their testimony. This includes, the timing and processing of facial recognition in the witness brain.

References

AS and A level psychology: Through diagrams. (2006). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brewer, N., & Williams, K. D. (2005). The complexity of eyewitness Recall. In Psychology and law: An empirical perspective (p. 93). New York: Guilford Press.

Eysenck, M. W., & Flanagan, C. (2000). Psychology for AS level (pp. 74-79). Hove [England: Psychology Press.

Goodmant, G. S., & Reed, R. S. (1986). Age differences in eyewitness testimony. Law and Human Behavior. doi:10.1007/BF01047344Ross, D. F., Read, J. D., & Toglia, M. P. (1994). Adult eyewitness testimony: Current trends and developments. Cambridge [England: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.

Wells, G. L., Lindsay, R. C., & Tousignant, J. P. (1980). Effects of expert psychological advice on human performance in judging the validity of eyewitness testimony. Law and Human Behavior. doi:10.1007/BF01040619

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