Eyewitness Accuracy Is Key Essay

1526 words - 7 pages

Eyewitness Accuracy
Though most people would not purposefully give a false identification, a false identification is not uncommon when eyewitnesses are looking at a lineup. This can happen for a number of reasons. A witness may be confused or there may be a memory error. Pressure they feel to make an identification may lead the witness to not notice that the perpetrator is not even in the lineup. Knowing this society must look for ways to correct or minimize this problem.
The concern about inadvertent influence on a witness is not a new question that the legal system and police forces are facing. However it is one with no easy answer. It is not always obvious what influences an eyewitness or makes the eyewitnesses feel pressured. This study looks at how inaccurate information given from a lineup administrator can affect the witnesses’ accuracy.
Current research shows that the attire of the lineup administrator can lead to a higher feeling of pressure to make a choice and lower accuracy even if the target is present in lineup (Lowenstein, Blank, & Sauer, 2010). There are many people who have an internalized (and not always conscious) need to please authority figures. To make a correct choice can fulfil a personal satisfaction of feeling like one has made the correct answer. The Lowenstein study shows how that need can cause one can react to the presence of a uniform by needing to make “the correct choice,” to appease authority and receive the self-satisfaction of getting the perp.
Another factor is social pressure and a need to conform or fit in. Human instinct separates those around a person as an “us” or a “them” and subconsciously the brain fears that not being and “us” proposes a risk. Being asked in part of a group those asked after a few answers given are more likely to conform to the choice of others. Even items such as the color of clothing people in surroundings are wearing can cause influence (Vrij, Pannell, & Ost). The subconscious need to be a part of the accepted group can cause an eyewitness to give a false identification so as not to be ostracized from the group.
Another very relevant factor that past research has shown us is how memory can become tainted with the discussion of others. Witnesses can take and internalize data that another witness has told them without them originally seeing the data themselves. The data that can be internalized could be the color of the perpetrators shirt, or a facial feature that the first witness didn’t see but heard another witness mention. However the internalization of this externally supplied information is not obvious to most people and they therefore give information not based on what they actually witnessed (Gabbert, Memon, & Allan, 2007). The Gabbert study shows how witnesses even talking or interacting before being interviewed by law enforcement can compromise an investigation. A witness who has talked to other witness may likely not give an accurate statement of what the witness saw...

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