Michael Eysenck’s article assesses the reliability and validity of eyewitness testimony in terms of the role it has played in helping to convict people, in many cases wrongfully. He goes on to argue that, in addition to factors leading up to and during the crime (insufficient attention, anxiety, etc.), what happens after the crime is also important in biasing or distorting memories of these events.
Memories become distorted (i.e. changed) when the eyewitness encounters misleading information shortly after observing a crime. This is the so-called ‘post-event misinformation effect’. The well-known Loftus and Palmer study (1974) shows us how replacing just one word (in this case, a verb) in a question can distort recollection of that event.
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