The Perils of Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Memory for People and Events (Chapter 25)

Gary L. Wells

Iowa State University, Department of Psychology

Elizabeth F. Loftus


University of California, Irvine – Department of Psychology and Social Behavior
January 16, 2013
Handbook of Psychology, Vol. 11, 2013, Forensic Psychology, Chapter 25, R.K. Otto and & I.B. Weiner (Eds), Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
UC Irvine School of Law Research Paper No. 2013-88

Abstract:
This chapter begins with a summary of the case of Thomas Brewster, who was tried for murder based in large part on eyewitness testimony. Ultimately DNA came to Brewster’s rescue, and he was freed before the trial ended. Analyses of taped interviews in the case help reveal how the interviewing process itself may have tainted the eyewitness testimony. The chapter continues with discussions of new psychological research on memory for complex events. This work shows how the details of events can be changed when witnesses are exposed to post-event information that is misleading. And with enough suggestion, entire events can be planted into the mind of ordinary healthy adults. The final section discusses new findings concerning eyewitness memory for people. This includes eyewitness identification of previously seen strangers, and new findings on procedures that can reduce mistaken identifications.