Our mind impacts our memories in a lot of interesting ways. Our memories are fallible; they are continuously reconstructed and filtered through everyone’s mind. There are no perfect snapshots of events in anyone’s brain. They are constructed and reconstructed and are susceptible to being manipulated with false information. Memory errors occur when memories are recalled incorrectly; a memory gap is the complete loss of memory. And, this is generally called Memory Errors.
Frederic Bartlett in a 1932 study demonstrated how telling and retelling a story distorted information recall. For this, he narrated participants a complicated Native American story and had them repeat it over a series of intervals. And, interestingly with every repetition, the stories were altered. Even when participants recalled accurate information, they filled in gaps with false information. Bartlett attributed this tendency to the use of “schemas”.
If you are wondering what a schema is, then it is a generalization formed in the mind based on experience. According to this, people tend to place past events into the existing representations of the; world to make memories more coherent. Then, instead of remembering precise details about the commonplace occurrences; people tend to use schemas to create frameworks for typical experiences, which shape their expectations and memories.
The common use of schemas suggests that memories are not identical reproductions of experiences; but a combination of actual events and already-existing schemas.
Talking about “Eyewitness testimony” then it is considered a credible source in the past; but its reliability has recently come into an interrogation. Research and evidence have shown that memories and individual perceptions are unreliable, often biased, and can be manipulated.
For instance, no one goes intentionally to witness a crime. Of course, it is an uncontrollable action and we do it all of a sudden. There are many types of biases and attentional limitations that make it difficult to encode memories during a stressful event.
When we witness an incident, its information is fitted inside our memory. However, the accuracy of this initial information acquisition can be influenced by a number of factors. They include:
Duration of the event being witnessed:
It is one of the most important factors among all these. In an experiment conducted by Clifford Richards (1977), all the participants were asked to approach police officers; and engage in conversation for either 15 or 30 seconds. The experimenter then asked the police officer to recall details of the person to whom they had been speaking; like their hair colour, facial structures, height, etc.
The results of the experiment showed that police had a significantly more accurate; recall of the 30-second conversation group than they did of the 15-second group.
Elaborating, the own-race bias, cross-race effect, other-ethnicity effect; the same-race advantage is one the factor thought to affect the accuracy of facial recognition.
In this studies have shown that person is much better in recognizing faces that match; their own race but are less reliable at identifying other races, thus inhibiting encoding.
This factor suggests that the presence of a weapon narrows a person’s attention, thus affecting eyewitness memory.
For instance, a person focuses on central peripheral details. While the weapon is remembered clearly, the memories of the other details of the scene are blurry.
Therefore, these additional stimuli are frequently not processed.
Some researchers also indicate that traumatic memories can be forgotten and later spontaneously recovered.