StudyBoss » Eyewitness identification » Inaccurate Eyewitness Testimony Essay

Inaccurate Eyewitness Testimony Essay

In society it is substantially common for people to be exonerated for a crime they did not commit. Unfortunately it is even more common for that to happen when they are incarcerated due to inaccurate eyewitness testimonies. Eyewitness research has demonstrated that there are a multitude of ways to conduct identification processes, however, the processes that police often use today are more likely to encourage inaccurate identification. In addition there have been many case studies of exonerated people that show the downfalls of eyewitness testimony.

Wrongful incarceration has consistently demonstrated that inaccurate identification carries big weight when it comes to wrongful identification, in fact, in the article Contamination of Eyewitness Self-Reports and Mistaken-Identification Problem by Laura Smalarz and Gary L. Wells, they state that there is an average of thirty three percent of witnesses who make an identification from a lineup identify a known innocent filler. There is a lot of thought behind the processes of identification but there are so many variables that can taint a subject’s confidence.

In fact, even when testing solutions it in a lab it is far from reality in an actual lineup. Smalarz Though the human memory is mostly accurate it is ossible to recreate a memory completely from scratch due variables like framing questions, the misinformation effect and creating an illusion of truth. There is a ways to go when it comes to self reported eyewitness testimony because the solutions researchers come up with in a lab are far from what reality demands. Incorrect identification can be detrimental to the subject receiving the punishments of the said crime.

Though human memory for the most part is accurate, memories can fail us. Our minds can misinterpret information from given our own perception, or even altering our memory from suggestions of ther people. It is also true that even if subjects are aware the culprit may not be in a lineup, they will still chose a person to make guilty. Our memory does have limitations so if a memory is altered it will be difficult to get back to the initial memory of the crime committed. Though it known that memory can be faulty often many people never doubt the confidence they have.

If one has repeated their side of the story they will have pathways that are high in processing fluency so they can create their own confidence in their story. Our confidence is very malleable when it comes to recalling back memories. This proposes that elements like post identification feedback and framing questions can shift one’s confidence levels. The more a person is confident in their memory the more they will believe it is accurate however this statement is nonsense. There is little correlation between how certain a person says a memory and how accurate that memory actually is.

When humans attempt to evaluate their own memory the influence of others can shift our confidence. Self reports that include confidence, emotions, feelings, and response speed do not show any strong connection with memory accuracy. The problem with these ypes of memories is that there is no concrete way to indicate reliability and accuracy of a memory; for example if one follows misleading information or a tip off from peers it makes more room for the misinformation effect to take place.

Smalarz and Wells state that the central problem with eyewitness identification testimony would have to be post identification feedback because since it is the most researched contaminant of testimony. Mistaken eyewitness reports include the quality of one’s perspective, the amount of attention during the crime, and initial identification observations can easily be skewed by ositive feedback or a misleading tip. If a suggestion brought on by a peer matches with what the person being questioned believes their confidence in their memory will increase.

This matching of the suggestion and belief relates back to how sentence credibility is influenced by sentence familiarity; the suggestion matched the subjects’ belief therefore it is familiar and must be correct. Smalarz notes that confirmatory feedback distorts self reports more for mistaken eyewitnesses than accurate one. The ‘illusion of truth’ problem is mainly due to the misinterpreting of memory which could be because of source onfusion.

The manipulation of stimulus presentation designed to make perceiving easier leads to processing fluency, then once a stimulus registered as special it will attribute specific prior event and therefore will create false familiarity. Post identification feedback gives witnesses that have scarce access to clear memory an external cue to how they are answering questions, unlike accurate eyewitness who have stronger access to an internal cue that analyzes an sense of recognition which is different from familiarity.

When attempting to fix this problem of the misinformation effect and the illusion f truth one will see that they go hand in hand together. Smalarz ency to a and Wells offer the ideas that the solution should be focused on the questioning of culprits and organization of the lineups since false memories are undetectable. The experiments done within a lab contrast from the realities of identification problems. Smalarz and Wells propose that police protocol for these pieces of evidence could be fixed by a double blind lineup having more place fillers in a lineup and also recording self reports at the time of identification.

A double blind lineup would prevent unconscious cues that may influence the witness, there should e fillers that look like the description of the perpetrator and a clear instruction that the culprit or suspect may not be in the lineup. Even with that instruction given it is still possible for a person to have confidence in their report and still will pick an innocent culprit. The format of the lineup should also be considered because sequential lineups are better since the suspects and/or their photos are shown one at a time to the witnesses only once.

The more familiar a face becomes the more a memory error can be made due to familiarity and source confusion. For example, in one study researchers viewed rain activity during encoding and then studied the data at the time of retrieval. What had happened from viewing these FMRI scans is that some scans make it so there is a visible difference in the brain where people remember certain events and where people know events. If a subject just ‘knew’ the potential culprit the FMRI scan would show activity in the parahippocampus and they would experience a vague feeling of familiarity.

Some goals to reduce misidentification would is to maximize encoding at the time of the crime and to narrow down source confusion due to misleading post-event information. Though one would want o believe that their memory is strong, it can also can contribute to encoding distortion, these distortion include activation of related concepts or memories, the creation and inference of schemas and scripts that could reconstruct memory.

As one self reports themselves it is imperative to know that our memory is reconstructive because we combine events from long term memory. It is nearly impossible to encode information the raw way it is presented to a person and retrieve it later on and have it be the same exact memory. What also can be done is the use of a cognitive interview to theoretically should improve yewitness memory by asking a series of questions. This interview relies heavily on context reinstatement because sometimes when locating a memory one has to go down the right retrieval path.

The cognitive interview would make one recall the event from multiple points of view to find the right retrieval path, or maybe ask the subject to think about the event from another witnesses’ shoes. The retrieval cues of the cognitive interview includes encoding specificity, recording a plethora of detail of the incident, multiple perspectives of the story like telling it in a different order or from a different perspective. Overall misidentifying people has unfortunately locked away many innocent people.

The good news, however, is that there are precautions that law enforcement can take to slim down the chances of incarceration due to memory errors. With time our memories may fade or escape us but there are tools to preserve eyewitness self reports. Thankfully the more one is aware of these slips ups from receiving feedback or a misleading tip the less one can run into these problems, same goes for the law enforcement because a double blind lineup and sequential lineup with the appropriate instruction can lead to a successful investigation.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.