Can You Trust an Eyewitness

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Mohd. Khan
10/22/12
PY-101
Can You Trust an Eyewitness?
Eyewitnesses are people who are present and observe the crime or event taking place. Before the discovery of DNA and forensic testing, most of the accusations in court were made by the eyewitnesses. But even now-a-days, the statement of an eyewitness is taken into first consideration when there is no forensic evidence available; it makes the case a lot harder to convict the criminal as eyewitnesses cannot be trusted in most occasions. There are three main psychological reasons for this judgement of mine; these reasons are attention, retention and reproduction. Attention relates to how much attention a person pays attention towards some particular on-going situation taking place in their surroundings. Usually people do not pay attention little details that take place around them such as face, ethnicity, height, figure, placement, etc. as their minds are more occupied by the outcome of the event or failing to notice as the event takes place too quickly. As an example I would like to set a situation where a gas station is robbed. A masked criminal enters the gas station armed with a gun and points at the clerk demanding him to take out all the cash out of the register. The clerk will be staring at the gun and in response to his demand will start handing out the cash from the register. He will not be in the state to notice the robber’s height, figure, ethnicity and clothing making him a terrible eyewitness to the robbery. Even though people claim to be good eyewitnesses, ‘The Innocence Project’ was able to determine that 72% of 239 cases had inaccurate eyewitnesses (Salzberg, 2012). The second reason, which is retention, is the stored mental image of what a person experiences from a certain event. This mental image that they store may or may not be fully accurate due to the influence of the environment around them. Relating to the above example, retention is the details of the robber that...
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