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Eyewitness Identification: Psychological Aspects - The Three Distinct Phases Of Memory

event information witness observed

Psychologists commonly partition memory into three distinct phases. The first phase is acquisition. The acquisition phase refers to processes involved in the initial encoding of an event and the factors that affect the encoding. Problems in acquisition include the effects of expectations, attention, lighting, distance, arousal, and related factors that control the types, amount, and accuracy of the encoded information. Eyewitnesses to crimes often witness the event under poor conditions because the event happens unexpectedly and rapidly. Attention may be focused on elements that are of little use for later recognition of the perpetrator, such as focusing on a weapon.

The second phase is retention. Information that is acquired must be retained for later use. Memory generally declines rapidly in the initial time periods and more slowly later in what psychologists describe as a negatively decelerating curve. Importantly, new information can be acquired during this slower phase and mixed together with what was previously observed to create confusion regarding what was actually seen by the eyewitness and what was perhaps overheard later. Loftus's well-known experiments on misinformation, for example, show that witnesses will use false information contained in misleading questions to create what appear to be new memories that are often dramatically different from what was actually observed.

The final phase is the retrieval phase. Two primary types of retrieval are recall and recognition. In a recall task, the witness is provided with some context (e.g., the time frame) and asked to provide a verbal report of what was observed. In a recognition task, the witness is shown some objects (or persons) and asked to indicate whether any of them were involved in the crime event. Retrieval failures can be either errors of omission (e.g., failing to recall some detail or failing to recognize the perpetrator) or errors of commission (e.g., recalling things that were not present or picking an innocent person from a lineup). Problems at any of the three phases of memory lead to unreliability.

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over 2 years ago

Memory is the retention of information over a period of time through storage, encoding, and retrieval. For something to be considered memory, you have to take it in, store it, and then retrieve it for use in the future. Memory is a very complex things and it can let you down sometime especially when our trying to remember something, especially during an important test in your life. Also memory can also cause some confusion, especially when two people experience different events. For example, if two friends went on a trip and one said scenario A happened while the other says that scenario B happened then It could lead to lots of confusion. I think it’s fair to say that most individuals have experienced frustrations when they can’t recall someone’s name or a place that they visit. It’s obvious that memory is not installed like data is in a computer; human memory is a little more concrete. The initial stage of memory is known as encoding, in which the information is processed for storage. When you are listening to music, or watching television you are encoding information into memory. Some data gets into memory practically effortlessly, while other requires some extensive time to get in there. How information gets stored into data is an interest in psychologist because it tends to vary from individual to individual. When we start encoding we use selective attention which means that we focus on a specific situation while ignoring everything else. It’s like showing undivided attention to a specific factor. Although our brain is magnificent, and is more powerful than a super computer it does has its limits, and it can’t pay attention to everything at once. Divided attention also has an impact on memory, which means that people try to pay attention to too many different things at once. When researchers measure divided attention they have participants to try and remember a list of materials, but they are asked to perform an additional task at the same time. Participants that focus their attention on one single event as opposed to trying and remember numerous of things simultaneously perform a lot better. However simply paying attention to something does not guarantee success with remembering it. Encoding is processed in three different levels. Levels of processing is known as encoding information from shallow to deep and the deeper processing produce better results than the shallow.

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over 9 years ago

Hi there.. this information is very useful, who is the author of this section.. G.L.wells...?