Paiva, Andrea [faculty advisor, Cancer Prevention Research Center]




Eye witness accounts, testimony


The role of eye witness testimony has drastically changed over the years and courts now rely more heavily on DNA evidence for conviction. Before the emergence of DNA evidence, convictions relied heavily on eye witness testimony however, there have been many individuals exonerated by DNA who were convicted mainly due to an eye witness testimony against them. Currently, in the United States, there have been 235 people exonerated by DNA evidence and more than three quarters of those exonerated were convicted because of an eye witness account against them. Clearly, there are some discrepancies between what these witnesses thought they saw and what they actually saw. This research will explore how memories perceive events and if our memories are accurate in remembering actual events.

Twelve students enrolled at the University of Rhode Island participated in this study (N=12). The participants were asked to watch a video which portrayed a man on the roof of a building working on a bomb. Following the video, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire pertaining to the content of the video and information about the suspected bomber. Participants were also shown a video line up and were asked if they could correctly identify the bomber from any of the men shown. This research exemplifies how memory can sometimes be deceiving, thus, eye witness testimony is not always reliable.

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