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Is it a myth that eyewitness testimony is solid evidence?

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2019 | Criminal Defense

If you have been accused of committing a crime in Pennsylvania and there is an eyewitness who claims to have seen you commit the crime, you may be in serious distress. While in the past law enforcement officials and prosecutors have heavily relied on eyewitnesses, the Association for Psychological Science states that new studies on memory and the mind may prove it is not as reliable as people think.

While eyewitness testimony may be convincing to a jury, the truth is that it is not always accurate. The assumption has always been that the memory records events like a video camera would. The truth is that the emergence of DNA analysis has proven that seeing something does not mean you can accurately recall it. With video cameras recording regularly, it is much easier to check your actual memory against what really happened.

Memory is also subject to confirmation bias. Most people forget the times their memory did not recall something and hold onto the times when their memory held on to a detailed event. This means that many believe their memory is accurate when it may not be.

Memory is part of what helps a person guide their actions and gives them a sense of identity. Memory is also biased to exaggerate and notice certain experiences while overlooking or minimizing others. Experts believe that the memory creates stories based on the experience you have had rather than recording them exactly like they happened. This means that memory is malleable and can be influenced by other factors.

Unconscious biases and distortions are common when it comes to memory. When eyewitness testimony is involved, it needs to be backed up by hard physical, objective evidence rather than relied on solely by itself.