Saturday, May 16, 2015

Eye See You

As we have come to learn that the once infallible notion of eyewitness testimony is in fact fallible it is still a predominant measure in which to gauge and inflame and ensure conviction. Numerous studies have been going on for years with regards to the problems regarding memory and what one actually sees. Al Jazeera America included a great special last year by Joe Berlinger on the criminal justice system and particularly with regards to eyewitness testimony. Then there is the issue of trauma and how it affects memory.

The fault of memory and our reliance of it can be explained by The Ebbinghaus curve or the forgetting curve. Initially, information is often lost very quickly after it is learned. Factors such as how the information was learned and how frequently it was rehearsed play a role in how quickly these memories are lost. Ebbinghaus studied the memory with regards to repetition and learning. How we remember and what we choose to forget.

And this is later explained by Elizabeth Loftus in her studies on memory and how she explains the idea. Eyewitnesses who point their finger at innocent defendants are not liars, for they genuinely believe in the truth of their testimony....That's the frightening part--the truly horrifying idea that what we think we know, what we believe with all our hearts, is not necessarily the truth." –

There are many studies on the "misinformation affect" and what that encompasses. And so when in New York the hammer wielding maniac was shot to death in the street by Cops immediately I thought of the song "If I had a hammer" as that is how my mind works. I then of course waited to hear the full story before immediately wielding my hammer aka social media, the internets,the blogosphere to comment and of course now we have video. And gosh sometime it works in Cops favor, so why they are against it I don't know.. oh wait well there is always an exception to the rule.

But we love our ## and thumbs up to ensure that we are a part of the solution and not the problem. And we have learned that eyes do lie. And so do people. And so does our brain.

The idea of Neuropsychology is the quackery pseudo science (as if we don't have enough) dedicated to the idea that measuring the brains functions during a series of stress tests tells you how well your brain functions apparently all the time not just during the crazy ass tests. Having proctored and administered more tests in 20 years I get how the brain shuts down and the idea of the knowing, forgetting becomes a matter of choice - fight or flight - if you are looking for a simple explanation. But the brain and the individual possessing said brain is just that an individual. But we do like one size fits all when it comes to science, justice and anything in between.

No you are not always a liar but your eyes and brain and the synapses that connect them don't always work in a linear fashion. The brain under stress, trauma, drugs, alcohol, the impressions, past experiences, the prompts or words used to stimulate the memory all can affect the memory. I believe it is called bias. I recall that it too affects how you see and recall as the young woman on the bike in the below article perfectly illustrates.

Witness Accounts in Midtown Hammer Attack Show the Power of False Memory

MAY 14, 2015
The New York Times

The real world of our memory is made of bits of true facts, surrounded by holes that we Spackle over with guesses and beliefs and crowd-sourced rumors. On the dot of 10 on Wednesday morning, Anthony O’Grady, 26, stood in front of a Dunkin’ Donuts on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan. He heard a ruckus, some shouts, then saw a police officer chase a man into the street and shoot him down in the middle of the avenue.

Moments later, Mr. O’Grady spoke to a reporter for The New York Times and said the wounded man was in flight when he was shot. “He looked like he was trying to get away from the officers,” Mr. O’Grady said.

Another person on Eighth Avenue then, Sunny Khalsa, 41, had been riding her bicycle when she saw police officers and the man. Shaken by the encounter, she contacted the Times newsroom with a shocking detail.

“I saw a man who was handcuffed being shot,” Ms. Khalsa said. “And I am sorry, maybe I am crazy, but that is what I saw.”

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the Police Department released a surveillance videotape that showed that both Mr. O’Grady and Ms. Khalsa were wrong.

An assailant pulled out a hammer and chased an officer on Eighth Avenue at 37th Street. He was shot by another officer.
By New York Police Department on Publish Date May 13, 2015. Photo by New York Police Department.

Contrary to what Mr. O’Grady said, the man who was shot had not been trying to get away from the officers; he was actually chasing an officer from the sidewalk onto Eighth Avenue, swinging a hammer at her head. Behind both was the officer’s partner, who shot the man, David Baril.

And Ms. Khalsa did not see Mr. Baril being shot while in handcuffs; he is, as the video and still photographs show, freely swinging the hammer, then lying on the ground with his arms at his side. He was handcuffed a few moments later, well after he had been shot.

There is no evidence that the mistaken accounts of either person were malicious or intentionally false. Studies of memories of traumatic events consistently show how common it is for errors to creep into confidently recalled accounts, according to cognitive psychologists.

“It’s pretty normal,” said Deryn Strange, an associate psychology professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “That’s the hard thing to get our heads around. It’s frightening how easy it is to build in a false memory.”

In one study, Dr. Strange showed people a film of a car accident in which five people, including a baby, were killed. The film was edited to remove segments of the accident. Then she tested the subjects 24 hours later on what they recalled. People were able to accurately describe what they had, in fact, seen, Dr. Strange said, but a significant number — 36 percent — also professed to have strong memories of parts of the crash that had actually not been shown to them.

“They are more likely to do that when they are upset about the event — if they are getting intrusive thoughts about it, or talking to other people about it,” she said.

A leading researcher in the field of witness memory, Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California, Irvine, said there was ample evidence that people found ways to plug holes in their recollections.

“If someone has gaps in their narrative, they can fill it in with lots of things,” she said. “Often they fill it with their own expectations, and certainly what they may hear from others.”

These are not the knowingly untrue or devious statements of people who are deliberately lying. False memories can be as persuasive as genuine ones, Dr. Loftus said: “When someone expresses it with detail and confidence and emotion, people are going to believe it.”

Said Dr. Strange, “It is surprising to the average person how quickly memories can be distorted.”

That was certainly Ms. Khalsa’s response.

“I feel totally embarrassed,” she said on Thursday, after having seen the video.

She now believes that she saw the initial encounter and then looked away, as she was on her bicycle. In that moment, the man began the attack, which lasted about three seconds until he was shot. “I didn’t see the civilian run or swing a hammer,” she said. “In my mind I assumed he was just standing there passively, and now is on the ground in handcuffs.”

“With all of the accounts in the news of police officers in shootings, I assumed that police were taking advantage of someone who was easily discriminated against,” she added. “Based on what I saw, I assumed the worst. Even though I had looked away.”

Her own certainty was gone, Ms. Khalsa said.

“It makes me think about everything in life,” she said.

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