The Power of False Memory
FMSF News Alert - May 27, 2015
This news alert references an excellent article to put in someone’s hands to show how easily an eyewitness account can be mistaken.
Dwyer, J. (2015, May 14). Witness accounts in midtown hammer attack show the power of false memory. New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2015 from The New York Times
Reporter Jim Dwyer begins his article with: "The real world of our memory is made of bits of true facts, surrounded by holes that we spackle over with guesses and beliefs and crowd-sourced rumors."
He goes on to describe two people’s eye-witness memories of a real event of a man shot by police in New York City. Each person’s memory was seriously mistaken. To explain how that could happen, Dwyer interviewed Deryn Strange, an associate psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Dr. Strange described one of her research studies.
Before showing subjects a film of a car accident in which five people were killed, Dr. Strange edited it to remove segments of the accident. After 24 hours, Dr. Strange tested the participants on what they remembered. The people did describe what they had actually seen accurately, but 36 percent of them claimed to have "strong" memories of sections of the crash that had not been shown.
Dwyer quoted Elizabeth Loftus: "If someone has gaps in their narrative, they can fill it in with lots of things. Often they fill it with their own expectations, and certainly what they may hear from others."
In his new interactive book entitled "False Conviction: Innocence, Guilt and Science", Jim Dwyer explores how false memory and other mistakes have led to erroneous criminal convictions. Take the eye-witness test on the website or download the interactive ebook here:
Pamela and J. Bean