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Eyewitness: Adult's Vulnerability to Suggestion

  1. Michael P. Toglia1,
  2. Jeffrey S. Neuschatz2,
  3. Kerri A. Goodwin3

Published Online: 15 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9780470061589.fsa313.pub2

Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science

Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science

How to Cite

Toglia, M. P., Neuschatz, J. S. and Goodwin, K. A. 2013. Eyewitness: Adult's Vulnerability to Suggestion. Wiley Encyclopedia of Forensic Science. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of North Florida, Jacksonville, FL, USA

  2. 2

    University of Alabama in Huntsville, Huntsville, AL, USA

  3. 3

    Towson University, Towson, MD, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2013

Abstract

The accuracy of eyewitness accounts is critical in the criminal justice system. Numerous studies over the past 100 years have produced a variety of results on the processes that enhance and impair eyewitness memory. Groundbreaking advances include Binet's distinction between suggestion and autosuggestion, Bartlett's theory that memory is reconstructive, Loftus' pivotal work that produced the misinformation effect, and Brainerd and Reyna's fuzzy trace theory. Although eyewitness memory can be quite accurate, a variety of factors can interfere with accurate retention. For example, conversing among witnesses, co-witness contamination, and autosuggestion are potential sources of misinformation that can adversely affect the accuracy of eyewitness memory. Time delays, such as those between experiencing an event and a subsequent police interview, and false memories, due to autosuggestion or overt implantation, must also be considered when evaluating the memory of a witness. Fortunately, warnings against both misinformation and the potential for false memories can improve accuracy. DNA testing has resulted in many exonerations of those convicted because of inaccurate eyewitness memories recounted before a court, and, as a result, those in the criminal justice system have become increasingly aware of the importance of improving eyewitness accuracy. In this article we identify some of the key factors that affect adult eyewitness memory in forensically meaningful ways.

Keywords:

  • eyewitness;
  • suggestibility;
  • memory;
  • adult;
  • witness;
  • accuracy;
  • misinformation