How does memory affect criminal cases?

What someone remembers, or says they remember, could be crucial in convicting someone of a crime. People often assume that what an eyewitness says must be accurate, which can lead to innocent people going behind bars.

Yet, human memory is far less reliable than people tend to think. Here are some situations to prove that:

Consider how often you forget everyday things

Have you ever lost minutes wondering where you put your keys? Or bumped into someone in the street who greets you by your name, then had to fake it as you cannot remember theirs? These are just two examples of how easily we forget things.

Now think about a childhood holiday

Try and remember everything you can, then go and compare what you remember with what your parents and siblings recall. The chances that you all remember it the same way are slim, despite the fact you all experienced the same event.

Memories are not permanent, and our memory of an event can change. For example, if the rest of your family insists your holiday at the beach in the rain was the best one ever, you may start to view it that way. Your memories of being cold and miserable may fade and be replaced with happier ones.

Eyewitness evidence can play an important role in solving crimes. Yet, courts must exercise caution when considering eyewitness accounts and realize that even well-meaning people can get it wrong: Not to mention those with ulterior motives for testifying against someone.

Knowing an eyewitness is willing to testify against you can be terrifying, but with appropriate legal assistance, you may still be able to overturn the charges you face.

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