Memory Essay Sample
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Memory is a reliable tool when recalling certain events that are important. In some it is quite accurate, down to the last detail, but this takes a great deal of mental discipline and training in order to accomplish. For the average person eyewitness testimony is hardly ever accurate or reliable, and in turn cannot be counted upon at all times. In such cases as being an eyewitness to a crime it is unfortunately common for officers to obtain multiple descriptions of a crime and its many pertinent details from any and all individuals that were in fact able to witness the said crime. Memory is not an accurate tool when considered for use in the case of eyewitness testimony for a crime.
Judging by several factors this statement has been shown to be very true in the nature of many crimes, as memory alone is not the overall indicator that can allow justice to be dispensed or even recognized. Whether it be through mood-congruence, meaning the state of mind in which an individual finds themselves, or state-dependent memory, when an individual is in the same state of mind during which a memory was formed, such problems as interference, misinformation, imagination, and even source amnesia can be very prevalent when it comes to the constructive and overall malleable nature of memory.
In the case of an eyewitness/victim, memory is regarded as a very curious thing in that even when a crime is committed; it is possible to misidentify a suspect. (Stahl, 2009) Fear is a very powerful cause of misinformation and can lend strength to the imagination even when one pays strict attention to detail. Source amnesia can easily affect how and what one remembers of an occurrence whether personal or secondary.
Effortful memory is a far more useful method of remembering when applied to eyewitness testimony, as it alludes more to the actual practice of remembering and therefore the closer attention to detail. (Myers, 2010) Automatic encoding is generally unavailable at will and often is not as reliable unless under hypnosis, which is still not a viable option when providing eyewitness testimony. Memory is best served as eyewitness testimony very rarely, as present tense information is far more reliable and able to paint a better picture of what happened, who is responsible, and what must be done to dispense justice.
Given that the longer memory is allowed to stretch and the fact that it is far more susceptible to misinformation that leads to misremembering, memory is not a suitable manner by which to glean eyewitness testimony. Not only does fear affect the process of remembering, but it can create instances and facts that were not actually present and therefore taint the testimony in a way that the wrong party is blamed for an act they did not commit.
Law enforcement agents are trained in method of how to retain facts and parse through faulty memories and misremembered facts that are provided, gleaning what is true and what should be considered misinformation by those who are witness to or have suffered criminal acts upon their person. Yet even they are not entirely infallible when the act of becoming an eyewitness is put into play. Every fallacy of memory can be traced back to effortful vs. automatic encoding, which in truth is the main difference between being a reliable or unreliable eyewitness. Those who are able to discern details and keep them in mind long enough to write them down for accurate measure are not rare, but overall people will utilize automatic encoding far more to remember what is familiar, what is comfortable, and what is common knowledge, as anything else takes a decided effort and therefore is subject to the decision of being accepted or denied when it comes to memory.
Myers, David G. Psychology (9th Ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers
Stahl, Lesley. (2010, March 6). Eyewitness: How Accurate is Visual Memory? (Video File).
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