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Unreliability of Eyewitness Memory

Eyewitness accounts tend to be valuable strengths of a case, but it is vital to question their credibility because of how memory functions and its associated problems. Even though the eyewitness stories may be reliable, as most people believe, in some instances, they are slightly accurate or, at times, wrong (Spielman, 2017). A person cannot be completely accurate about a suspect just because they are convinced (Spielman, 2017). Although eyewitness testimonies are believed to be accurate, they are not entirely correct because memory is not as perfect as most people believe.

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Forgetfulness is a factor that can be used to evaluate eyewitness accounts’ accuracy because of the way memory is structured and how it works. Combined with short-term memory problems, forgetting may make the information not to be kept in the long-term memory since the eyewitness has not rehearsed it sufficiently (Spielman, 2017). This fact casts doubts on the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Since they can never remember all the facts, it is safe to assume that they try to create a story based on what happened, even if they were at the scene. A good example that proves witness testimony may be defective is when suspects are lined up for identification. Most witnesses tend to pick a person that looks similar to what they remember because (Spielman, 2017). In the end, they choose an innocent person who ends up serving time, which is unfair.

In most cases, a person tends to remember the information related to them alone. Spielman (2017) refers to this phenomenon as a self-reference effect; people do not remember the information which does not have personal relevance. In most estates, a single suspect is arrested within the vicinity and is usually presented for identification for different crimes. Most eyewitnesses will tend to look at the suspect whose body language shows any signs of suspiciousness. At times, the suspect is just tense about being accused of a crime they did not commit, yet the eyewitness claims they were the culprit. Therefore, the account of eyewitness memory may not be as reliable as most people tend to believe.

Reference

Spielman, R. M. (2017). How memory functions. In Psychology (pp. 254-260). Houston, Texas: OpenStax, Rice University.

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