Focused On Advocacy, Honesty And Commitment To Our Clients

Memory isn’t as accurate as you think

On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Criminal Defense

It’s common for people to believe that their memory is as accurate as a video recording. This is why an eyewitness in a criminal case will often trust their memory of events, and their account will be considered believable by the court.

In reality, though, memory is malleable and can change over time. Some people have compared it to the telephone game, where the message changes slightly from one person to the next. Often, memories change during recall – when someone thinks or talks about the event.

Details can be altered

One important thing to note is that this recall can alter some of the details of the memory. It may be inaccurate the next time it is brought up. 

For instance, say that a witness is giving their account of a crime in progress when someone asks them if the person they saw was wearing a blue shirt. The witness thinks about it for a moment and realizes that yes, in fact, they were wearing a blue shirt.

Every time after that, when the witness recalls the memory, they will “remember” the person in the blue shirt. But it’s possible that the memory is now wrong – if, for instance, the suspect actually wore a gray or green shirt. Witnesses can sometimes accidentally alter their own memories by talking about the event, reading news articles, watching reports on television and things of this nature.

An eyewitness may be wrong

What all of this means is that an eyewitness to a criminal case may sound trustworthy and believable, and they may even think that they are telling the truth. But their memory of events could be wrong and it’s important to keep that in mind when considering legal defense options.