Eyewitness: Adult's Vulnerability to Suggestion
Published Online: 15 MAR 2013
Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.
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. .
- Published Online: 15 MAR 2013
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.