Memory and Eyewitness Identification

It appears that it is tremendously complex to identify a person whom one had seen previously on a low-quality picture. Human memory has various limitations that might have a significant impact on our choices, even if someone else’s life depends on them. The following paper will discuss a case of one woman from North Carolina who jailed a man that was not guilty of raping her instead of an authentic abuser.

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Before studying the story of a woman who pointed at a man who was not guilty of raping her at the police department, it would be proper to state that that the human mind and memory are the most inaccurate tools to identify different faces among several people who all look alike (Anderson & Bower, 2017). I also failed to do this in the lineup activity provided by the professor because there was no right option. However, after watching the video, I recognized that our memory (regardless of whether it is a picture or a physical identification) would always make us choose the person who looks the most similar to the one who was caught committing a crime.

I picked the person who was in the top right corner (among all the five pictures presented in the activity). To begin with, I would like to mention that the man in the blurry picture from the camera looked similar to my friend (because of his beard and the type of hair). Therefore, I decided to base my opinion on this association. Hence, the man in the top right corner looked the most familiar to me. I noticed the black beard and the chubby face my friend has, so I was almost sure that my choice was right.

To be honest, I was not 100% confident when I picked the innocent man from the presented lineup. Nevertheless, I recognized that the type of the person was similar to that of the individual in the initial picture. Even though I was not warned about the possibility of not having the guilty person in the lineup, I would make the same choice. I was not completely confident in the choice I made because I could not see the nose and eyes of the man.

Case Discussion

As is mentioned previously, one should not rely on his or her memory when making a choice that can ruin other people’s lives. In the case I had a chance to study in the assigned videos, the victim was raped by a man whose appearance she had a chance to remember precisely during the sexual act. Nevertheless, the abused female picked another young man from the lineup organized by the police. Also, the victim reported being confident regarding her choice.

Several years later, the innocent man who was sentenced to life and 54 years by mistake (Ronald Cotton) was freed from prison because the guilty person was finally found (“What Jennifer saw”, 2014). Although the victim was sitting in the courtroom and seeing the two personalities, she could not admit that her choice was wrong. Later, it became clear the there was no right individual in the lineup presented to the woman. This is exactly what happened to me in the activity with the lineup because there was no right option.


Human memory has many limitations. Therefore, it is impossible to differentiate people who look alike sometimes. When individuals have to choose from a lineup that consists of personalities with similar appearances (but without a right option), one is likely to point at the most familiar man or woman. In the majority of cases, such choices are wrong.

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Anderson, J. R., & Bower, G. H. (2017). Human associative memory (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

What Jennifer saw. (2014). Web.

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"Memory and Eyewitness Identification." StudyCorgi, 23 May 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Memory and Eyewitness Identification." May 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Memory and Eyewitness Identification." May 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Memory and Eyewitness Identification." May 23, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Memory and Eyewitness Identification'. 23 May.

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