American Judges Association
Date of this Version
Court Review, Volume 48, Issues 1-2, 36-43
More than a century of psychology research has shown that memory is fallible. People’s memory can be influenced by information encountered after an incident has been witnessed—so-called postevent information, or PEI. In everyday life, one of the most common ways to encounter PEI is when individuals who have shared the same experience discuss this with one another. In the case of witnessing a crime, individuals might be particularly motivated to discuss what happened, and who was involved, because of the significance of the event. The PEI encountered during this discussion with a co-witness might be largely consistent with one’s own memories of the event. However, some details may differ either because one witness has remembered something differently, has paid attention to different details, or has simply made an honest mistake in his or her own account. A common finding within eyewitness-memory literature is that exposure to PEI that is inconsistent with a person’s own memory can affect the ability to subsequently report details of the originally encoded event.
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