Visual identification within eyewitness testimonies is one
of the most persuasive forms of evidence that can be presented in court (Loftus
1979). Yet, the incredibility of memory recall is well known, with research clearly
showing how vulnerable memory is to reconstruction, manipulation, and bias. The
common assumption is that memory works similarly to a camera, in actuality many
studies have demonstrated that memory is a reconstructive process that is
subject to external factors that can render the information unreliable or inaccurate.

Schemas can be heavily influential in our interpretations of unfamiliar experiences
that we may encounter. They are formed by one’s cultural and social
surroundings, pre-existing knowledge, and life experiences. Schemas help make
sense of the information stored as memories, however, they are capable of
distorting and reconstructing unfamiliar information in order to fit with pre-existing
knowledge (Bartlett, 1932). Loftus et al (1974) demonstrated how the use of a
range of verbs describing the severity of a car crash effectively distorted the
participants’ recollection of the video and thus their estimation of how fast
the cars were travelling. Therefore, showing how easily memory can be
influenced and reconstructed by minor external factors.

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According to the American Psychological Association, an
estimate of one in every three witness identifications is wrong. An analysis of
the National Registry of Exonerations by
Gross and Shaffer (2012) found that false identifications occurred in 76% of the
873 cases. Mistaken eyewitness identifications and testimonies contributed to
over 75% of wrongful convictions in the United States (Gronlund et al, 2014; Innocence
Project, 2014). There are several techniques used within the judicial system to
reduce the influence of reconstruction, manipulation, and bias on the process
of obtaining visual identifications in eyewitness testimonies. These procedures
serve to ensure the reliability of eyewitness testimonies and prevent future wrongful

This leads to the formation of the research question: What
are the strategies of reducing memory distortion within eyewitness testimonies?