Source of article 2's Company - Magnus Insights.
In the early to mid 1980s, my business partner/wife was on a team conducting research in the realm of eyewitness identification. The research was funded by the National Institute of Justice and the National Science Foundation and she, and the others on the team, evaluated different aspects of eyewitness identification. One aspect of that research, as reported in Bothwell, R.K., Brigham, J.C., & Pigott, M.A. (1987) An exploratory study of personality differences in eyewitness memory, Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 2 (3), 335-343, focused on the confidence of eyewitnesses. One conclusion of the study was that confident eyewitnesses, those who were sure they had correctly identified a perpetrator, were the most likely to be accurate. Over the past 35 to 40 years, research has continued in this field and has been instrumental in determining when an eyewitness may or may not be correct in identifying a suspect. Many factors come into play, and many people have become aware of the fallacies of eyewitness identification as a major piece of evidence leading to convictions. As DNA evidence became commonly used, exonerations of innocent people convicted primarily on the basis of an eyewitness’ testimony have become relatively frequent. A new report on the efficacy of eyewitnesses is being published soon in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Among other things, this article points out that what Bothwell, Brigham, and Pigott first published in 1987 holds true today regarding the confidence level of the eyewitness. Note, one key point is that it is the confidence of the witness when making the initial identification and not the confidence of the witness at a later time (e.g., at trial when the time interval may have created an increase in witness confidence). The new report, which looks at all available science on eyewitness identification, seeks to set forth the best practices for using and evaluating eyewitnesses. It points out that, while there are many problems with eyewitnesses, there are times when they should be relied upon to a greater extent than at other times. The points made in the article are an example of the evolution of science in the world of psychology. This post points out where some of today’s conclusions originated – with Melissa and the team she was on back then. It is incumbent on lawyers to stay current with the state of science on issues as important as eyewitness reliability. Whether lawyers represent criminal or civil clients, knowledge from the world of psychology is relevant in many ways.