Australian eyewitness expert Donald Thomson appeared on a live TV discussion about the unreliability of eyewitness memory. He was later arrested, placed in a lineup and identified by a victim as the man who had raped her. The police charged Thomson although the rape had occurred at the time he was on TV. They dismissed his alibi that he was in plain view of a TV audience and in the company of the other discussants, including an assistant commissioner of police. The policeman taking his statement sneered, “Yes, I suppose you’ve got Jesus Christ, and the Queen of England, too.”
Several studies have been conducted on human memory and on subjects’ propensity to remember erroneously events and details that did not occur. Elizabeth Loftus performed experiments in the mid-seventies demonstrating the effect of a third party’s introducing false facts into memory.
Eyewitness testimony is a legal term. It refers to an account given by people of an event they have witnessed. For example they may be required to give a description at a trail of a robbery or a road accident someone has seen. This includes identification of perpetrators, details of the crime scene etc.
Eyewitness testimony is an important areas of research in cognitive psychology and human memory.
Jurys tend to pay close attention to eyewitness testimony and generally find it a reliable source of informtion. However, research into this area has found that eyewitness testimony can be affectd by many psychological factors.