The Accuracy of Eyewitness Testimony

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Eyewitness testimony is defined as, “an area of research that

investigates the accuracy of memory following an accident, crime, or

other significant event, and the types of errors that are commonly

made in such situations.” Much emphasis is placed on the accuracy of

eyewitness testimony as often-inaccurate eyewitness testimony can have

serious consequences leading to wrong convictions. Eyewitness

testimony is a powerful tool within any field, particularly that of

justice, as it is a readily accepted form of evidence that allows for

convictions. However, Tests conducted by Loftus have shown an enormous

swing from a non-guilty verdict, to guilty within the same case,

simply through the introduction of an eyewitness. This alone displays

the importance of eyewitness testimony, and accentuates the theory

that jurors tend to over believe, or at least rely heavily on such

accounts. In this essay I shall discuss the work and research

contributed by Bartlett, and Loftus as to whether accuracy plays a

vital role in eyewitness testimony compared to other aspects of memory


Retrieval failure is an everyday experience for many of us. We also

often experience problems with storing new information. This usually

occurs because simply the person concerned is not paying attention.

Perhaps more importantly memories can become scrambled, in the process

of retrieval; as a result the scrambled memory is recalled-along with

mistaken details instead of your original memory. In the case of

eyewitness testimony, this may lead to wrongful convictions. The

history of the United States justice system, like those of other

countries is littered with wro...

... middle of paper ...

...ccuracy may be considered more

important in eyewitness testimony than in any other memory use on the

basis that the consequences of eyewitness accounts can be severe, and

is not to be taken light-heartedly. However, eyewitness testimony can

play a beneficial part in the criminal justice system if factors such

as police procedures are controlled under the strict guidelines. It

should be kept in mind though, that even if all the social aspects

mentioned are completely controlled, there still remains the

possibility that errors will continue to occur due to memory recall

errors, and overly emotional witnesses who simply wish to see someone

punished for their crimes. But regardless of this fact, there would

undoubtedly be a remarkable recovery from the present 45% wrongful

conviction rate as displayed within many studies.

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