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DNA testing led to the review of many settled cases.
SUGGESTED LESSON PLAN Eyewitness testimony is historically among the most convincing forms of evidence in criminal trials (e.g. Probably only a suspect’s signed confession can further convince a jury about that individual’s guilt. “I’ll believe it when I see it” isn’t just a cliché, it is a statement of the most persuasive form of evidence we allow.
That iconic moment when a testifying witness points to the defendant as the perpetrator of the crime is iconic, and has been dramatized often on television and movies. But being convincing isn’t the same as being accurate.
Web Resources Why Science Tells Us Not to Rely on Eyewitness Accounts. Gary Wells, who has done extensive research on the validity of police line-ups. Different people can see the same event and come away with very different memories.
His website is a wealth of information, links, and videos. Teaching unit for Noba Project by Cara Laney and Elizabeth F. Frederic Bartlett, the pioneering cognitive psychologist, talked about “remembering” as an active process as opposed to having a static memory that one stored and retrieved.
Of these, 71% had been convicted through eyewitness misidentification and had served an average of 14 years in prison before exoneration.
Of those false identifications, 41% involved cross-racial misidentifications (221 of the 358 people were African American). The claim that eyewitness testimony is reliable and accurate is testable, and the research is clear that eyewitness identification is vulnerable to distortion without the witness’s awareness.Related Myths Video Resources How reliable is eyewitness testimony? Eyewitness testimony — it’s often thought of as solid evidence in criminal cases, but researchers including Iowa State University’s Gary Wells have found that our memories aren’t as reliable as we think. Psychological scientist Elizabeth Loftus studies memories. More precisely, she studies false memories, when people either remember things that didn’t happen or remember them differently from the way they really were. Students may bring responses to class or post them online.Sometimes, we can even build false recollections about people we only think we saw. It’s more common than you might think, and Loftus shares some startling stories and statistics, and raises some important ethical questions we should all remember to consider. Begin by posing the myth, shown on Slide 1 of the accompanying Power Point slides.Remind them that memories can be accurate or inaccurate; the problem is that we can’t distinguish between the two.The goal of this day is to give an overview of how memory works.Third, eyewitnesses are often sincere and confident, which makes them persuasive but not necessarily correct. Witnesses truly believe their version of events, no matter how inaccurate they may be. People notice the times when they accurately remembered some person or detail in their past, but tend to forget the times when their memory failed them.With the prevalence of video cameras capturing most anything we do, it is easier than ever to check memories against actual recordings of events.Use Activity 3 (see below) to show how quickly and easily memory can be distorted.The balance of the class time can be spent discussing applications of memory research.I’ve provided a concept map of different memory concepts in Slide 7.There are various ways of organizing the memory unit: historically from Ebbinghaus to current models, or focusing on a particular model such as Information processing (almost 50 years out of date, but still a powerful way of organizing concepts).