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The Influence of False Memories and Eyewitness Testimonies on the Case

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This essay will introduce us the definitions of false memories and eyewitness testimonies as well as what they are and also what literature has told us about them. The aim of this essay is assessing how reliable the eyewitness testimony and explained how false memories can be created and implemented in the memory, this would also be backed by studies conducted by researchers. An eyewitness testimony is a legal expression, which refers to an occasion witnessed by any individual. For instance, they may have witnessed a car accident which they might be required to give a portrayal at a trial. False memories are the psychological event where an individual remembers something that did not occur or in extreme cases constructing memories that have never happened, for example misremembering inaccurate recall of previous events. This topic is important as eyewitness testimony and false memories are used in courts as evidence so the information given by the person must be precise and accurate, as in court their remembrance will affect the jurors greatly.

The use of research on eyewitness testimony and false memory have shown that it should not be relied on as much in court as evidence shows the number of inaccurate statements made by witnesses. The areas that will be covered in this essay are Loftus and Palmers Study on eyewitness testimony and Loftus and Pickrell’s study on false memories and this would conclude how reliable both eyewitness testimony and false memories are.

Eyewitness testimony is a crucial topic of research in cognitive psychology as the use of eyewitness testimony in court has brought up numerous questions as to its reliability, this is because Juries tend to use eyewitness testimony as a valid type of information however, research has shown that eyewitness testimony could be affected by various factors, such as reconstructive memory, leading questions and effects from stress or anxiety. Loftus and Palmer (1974) demonstrated that the type of wording or language used to witness people may have an impact on their memory, meaning their original memory can be changed. The results of this study show that eyewitness testimony can be unreliable and influenced by leading questions. In the study conducted by Loftus and Palmer they showed 45 participants, 7 clips which were presented in a random order to each group, the clips were varied between 5 to 30 seconds long and it was about traffic accidents. After watching the clips, the participants were then questioned like they were eyewitnesses, however one question Loftus and Palmer were interested in was about the speed of the cars, they asked each participant “how fast were the cars going when they (smashed/collided/ bumped/ hit/contacted) each other”? The results concluded that the verb used modified the speed of the vehicles, which influenced the memory of the individuals. For example, the individuals who answered the ‘smashed’ question assumed the vehicles were going quicker than individuals who answered about the ‘hit’ question.

Overall this showed that specific questions and verbs can be misleading which can influence an individual’s memories and this can lead to exaggerated and biased eyewitness testimonies. False memory is a recollection of memories that did not happen for example imagining something that has not happened. Loftus and Pickrell (1995) examined how false memories can be formed in a study known as ‘Lost in the mall’ study. Loftus and Pickrell wanted to test out whether false memories can be created by recommendation, in individuals. This study observed 24 participants in which 3 of them were males and 21 of them were females all varying from ages between 18 to 52. Loftus and Pickrell contacted all the participant’s relatives and were asked to provide information about any of their childhood memories. The participants were then asked to read 4 stories in which 3 of them were accurate and one of them being an untrue story about being lost in a mall, they were then told to write down any information they have recalled about each story.

The results of this study concluded that false memories can be imprinted in an individual by just visualizing an occasion as only 19 of 24 individuals were able to notice that the lost in the mall event was incorrect and the rest of the individuals remembered the untrue story completely. This presumes false recollections are a case of condensed accuracy in memory, constructed on the idea of reconstructive memory. These examples have helped researchers to understand false memory in a more detailed way and this has also shown researchers the reliability of eyewitness testimonies. They have shown that eyewitness testimonies are not always a reliable source of information and this has helped change the justice system to make eyewitnesses more accurate for example being more careful about the words used when questioning an eyewitness. The results of the studies have shown that false memory is possible to happen which is a risk as they recall information from their imagination, making it fake and untrue.

In conclusion, these studies have shown researchers how easily memory can be triggered and changed, this can affect eyewitness testimony’s as it could create inaccurate information which can lead to false to eyewitness testimony’s and overall it can make eyewitness testimonies seem less reliable and untrustworthy. These studies have shown how memory can be easily impacted and influenced such as using specific verbs, for example, using the word fast can imply and affect the speed of anything of the event they are asked to recall and also the questions being asked can create false memories for example if they’re asked questions about a crime scene instead of asking them “which hand was the person holding the gun” it should be worked out as “what was the person holding” as the first question implies and creates a false memory of gun which may have not even been there at the scene. Overall The results of the studies have proven to the society not to rely too much on eyewitness testimony as they can be unreliable due to many factors.

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The Influence of False Memories and Eyewitness Testimonies on the Case. (2018, August 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 20, 2021, from
“The Influence of False Memories and Eyewitness Testimonies on the Case.” GradesFixer, 02 Aug. 2018,
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