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The Accuracy Of An Individual 's Memory

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Eyewitness report or testimony refers to an account by people of an event they have witnessed. These are commonly used for criminal conviction by judges and jurors. It is a product of reconstructive memory where we piece together bits of stored information that seems real and accurate. The accuracy of an individual’s memory comes into question as it could lead to wrongful conviction. Some factors affecting accuracy of eyewitness reports include confirmation bias, misinformation effect and influence of violence and anxiety. The first part of the essay will explain these factors; the second part will discuss the ability to retrieve information from our long-term memory. Eyewitness testimony can be affected by confirmation bias. It is defined as “a tendency for eyewitness memory to be distorted by the eyewitness’s prior expectations”, (Eysenck and Keane, 2015, p.321). Barlett (1932) argues that schema causes the distortion. Schemas are generalized ideas or packets of knowledge stored in long-term memory. It is a cognitive framework to help us organize and construct memories based on expectations and our existing assumptions about the world. In the event of new situations like witnessing a crime, the information encoded into memory will not correspond exactly to what was encountered. An example would be study conducted by Bartlett (1932), where British participants were asked to memorize a Native American storybook. The story became significantly shorter, details were lost, and
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