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Is Eyewitness Testimony Reliable

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The Reliability of Eyewitness Testimony
SCI 110 Introduction to Physical Science
Professor

Pages 6

Abstract:
Eyewitness testimony and its credibility has always been a staple of controversy in court cases. Let's take a minute to think back the last time you were in a local retail store. Now ask yourself, are you able to describe the person who was ahead of you in the line? How many details can you really remember about that person? Now how accurate do you think that your description was? Today we are going to investigate just how accurate people's observations are in everyday life. Objective:
The purpose of this project today is to determine whether eyewitness account credible and reliable enough to be used as evidence in criminal investigations. We are going to do this by determining witness recollection, gender of suspect, distance away from suspect and date and time affect the accuracy of witness accounts.
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Introduction:
Eyewitness accounts are always under scrutiny whether in the courtroom, by police and even scientists. In most eyewitness identification the processes typically involve selecting an alleged perpetrator from a police lineup or sketches. After selecting a suspect a formal statement is using made confirming the identification of the subject. Usually the times in which you are asked to give a statement range anywhere from a day to a few days later. Within this time frame ,ask yourself how accurately are you able to recollect what really happened or what someone really looked like.
The reason that so many people also acceptance of eyewitness accounts may stem from a misconception of how a human's memory works. Most people believe that our minds are just like a video recorder, but in actuality, we can't just recall every moment of the day like we want to without reconstructing what happened that day. What is meant by that is that we have to piece together information to try to obtain a whole recollection. Many other factors can also reduce the accuracy of one's eyewitness identifications. Stress is one factor, which can come from the crime scene or even during the investigation process. The perpetrator brandishing a weapon at the crime scene, which of course ensues fear as well as more. Police also have a lot of influence on eyewitness account ability as well. They have been known to help nudge or influence and eyewitnesses choice during lineups with simple head nods or winks while a witness is choosing an individual. Other factors include a suspects lack of distinct characteristics such as tattoos, extreme height, or eye catching apparel. And this last factor in my opinion which is the one I think people tend to show the most, is our overall lack of attentiveness and attention to detail. Especially nowadays with everyone close to their smartphones, it is really that much harder to pay attention and trust eyewitness testimony. Unless something is truly eyecathing. Hypothesis
I will be testing one of the factors of human recall memory through a series of different variables.
How well can someone recall appearances and descriptions (when average looking individuals appearances) are in a checkout line around them?
How well can someone recall appearances and descriptions (when good looking individuals) are in a checkout line around them?
How much of your short term memory, long term memory, stress and other factors influence your memory recalling?
These questions will be answered through a series of different scenarios in a controlled setting. I have a prediction that the eyewitnesses will be able to describe the more attractive individuals than the average looking individuals. Scenario 1
I will stage a checkout line of a locally owned store with at least 7 people split into two different lines. the test subject will be in a line adjacent to a very attractive couple male and female. The couple is so attractive that they immediately catch your eye in unwillingly continue to glance at them repeaditly. Shortly after a man/woman behind her/him, engages in conversation with the subject. Approximately 2 minutes after they stop talking the person that you were just speaking with begins to rob the store. The assailant makes everyone get down on face first on the floor. The robbery takes approximately 5 minutes, the perpetrator was out the door right after. The clerks call 911 and the police arrive to the location in 15 minutes. They begin to take verbal and written statements from everyone in the store about the robbery. Since the test subject was the only one to have a verbal conversation with the assailant, he/she is taking in for further questioning, artist renditioning, statement writing and photo identification. All of this happens on the first day, immediately after the robbery. The eyewitness will be called in again to the police station 2 days later for questioning again to recant his/her story. This will determine how much of the eyewitnesses story they remember.
Scenario 2
This scenario is the same as the first one but only with the roles of assailant and the couple reversed. I will have an average looking couple in the line adjacent to the eyewitness and have the attractive person male/female speaking with the eyewitness and ultimately become the suspect.
Scenario 3
This scenario is the same as 1 and 2, but i am only putting in average looking people throughout the store as well as the assailant. Data Collection and Analysis
Throughout the experiment the police were videotaping the eyewitnesses responses, which made it easier to annotate the responses.
After 3 days go by, I would collect all of the data from the eyewitnesses and calculate them using a rating scale from their responses:
0 = No response
1 = inaccurate wording that changed the sense of what was said
2 = accurately described the sense of what was said, seen or action taken, but not exact
3 = accurately described what was said, seen or action taken Conclusion
To sum up the data collection results in comparison to my hypothesis (since I don’t have real results) I used statistics from various sources to determine what the average person is only able to recall in situations such as this. The average person who has not had something eye catching and is not truly paying attention, will only be able to recall 10- 20% of distinct characteristics of a situation, person or place. Unlike another person who has spotted something that peaks their interest and allows them to now become very attentive will be able to recall at least 75% of characteristics of a person, place or situation. Which are just a few of reasons that eyewitness testimony is not admissible in court.

Cites:
Bohannon, J. (2014). How reliable is eyewitness testimony? Scientist weigh in.
Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/10/how-reliable-eyewitness-testimony-scientist-weigh Lilienfeld, S.O., & Arkowitz, H. (2010, January 1). Why Scientists Tell Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts. Retrieved 13 February, 2016, from http://scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/…...

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