Is eyewitness memory generally accurate?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Eyewitness evidence is not generally accurate.  We tend to think that eyewitenss evidence is the best possible evidence in a criminal proceeding.  However, it appears that such accounts and identifications can actually be wrong a significant amount of the time.

For example, in this study, eyewitnesses performed in a fairly mediocre way.  Those witnesses who had to make a quick decision as to which suspect was guilty picked the right one 67% of the time while those who were given time to think about it only managed 49% right.  As another example, this paper discusses a number of studies that show that false memories or inaccurate memories can easily be introduced into an eyewitness's mind by a questioner.  

Based on these sorts of studies, we should be rather skeptical about the value of eyewitness testimony.  It appears that such testimony can very easily be inaccurate.


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