You never know how much a man can’t remember until he Is called as a witness. ” Human memory serves many purposes In people’s past, present, and future. Memory and the Images contained In It help people to conduct the daily routines of life that are required for basic survival. It also aids in times of great sorrow when dealing with the loss of a loved one. Without memory, people would not be able to write, speak, navigate, or have personal relationships. Foster) However, memory plays a crucial role in the legal system, and the apprehension and Seibel conviction of suspects who have committed unthinkable crimes. Such emotional memories are usually vivid and often very precise. Even still, it is certain that at least some emotional memories do contain errors, and some may be wrong all together. The accuracy of emotional memories must be tested and not assumed accurate. At the center of this debate over emotional memories is “flashbulb memories. ” Flashbulb recollections tend to be extraordinarily vivid and detailed, and are recalled with much confidence and accuracy.
However, It can also be wrong. Therefore, memory vividness and confidence during eyewitness testimony cannot be associated with accuracy. (Register) Individuals who become a part of the legal system are usually asked to recall highly emotional and often negative information. Witnesses to murders and other violent crimes, and victims of assaults are asked to provide details of the crime to police officers, lawyers, and other members of the legal system. Witnesses and victims may be under great emotional distress when attempting to recall these details.
Although many studies support that great duress improves certain areas of memory recall, there are Just as many that suggest that peripheral details are sacrificed by central details. For Instance, if a weapon Is used during a crime, the victim will focus more on the weapon than the perpetrator. Therefore, the victim’s ability to accurately pick a suspect out of a line-up Is greatly reduced. Furthermore, the added stress of being threatened with a weapon could compromise the victims memory in general. (Releaser) Although increased arousal can stimulate memory, their attention can be very narrowed and biased.
Studies show that people are more likely to have worse memory when they are in violent situations when they are more concerned with self preservation. There is also evidence that shows that people are poor at recognizing faces of others from different racial and ethnic groups. (Foster) Emotional stimuli can often created memory biases. Many studies have shown that emotional stimuli could be linked to higher rates of wrong responses and false alarms. According to the experiments, higher rates of false alarms could be a result of stress on the hippopotamus which Is involved In long-term memory.
There Is also evidence that suggests that continuous exposure to stress, Like with PETS, can also be responsible for false alarms. The stressful environment and nature of forensic Investigations alone can cause stress- related error for victims when trying to recount their experiences. Furthermore, studies nave snow Tanat traumatic memories are less Kelly to De recalled Decease AT psychological defense mechanisms that block awareness of the event. (Register) Leading questions can also promote memory distortion. Often times, others can influence witnesses of crimes to recall details by planting the details during questioning.
After the information is conveyed to the witness, they mistake it as their own memory. For instance, if an officer asks a witness about the blue shirt he was wearing, the witness will now recall that the suspect had on a blue shirt, even though they may not have known or remembered that initially. Other studies also show that misleading information can cause witnesses to recall inaccurate information. In one experiment, the facilitator mentioned a stop sign in one scenario and a yield sign in another to witnesses of the same accident.
The participants almost always recalled whatever sign was mentioned instead of the one from their actual memory. (Foster) Although emotional memories and flashbulb memories can be extremely vivid and accurate, they can also be completely wrong. Studies of flashbulb memory have provided many answers to how people remember emotional events that actually take place in their lives. However, there is no way for others to know exactly what happened during the event to test the accuracy of the memory. Therefore, research has moved to controlled laboratory studies.