Thursday, 12 August 2010

Memories are easy to contaminate: study

Australian research has shown how easily eyewitness accounts - a foundation stone of the judicial system - can be "contaminated".

The University of Sydney study found people could add new detail to, or even amend, their memory if they discussed their recollection with someone who saw the same event.

It was a subconscious process, said Dr Helen Paterson, whose research has focused on chatter between co-witnesses and its role as a "potent delivery mechanism" for false memories...

...She said the research underscored the need for police and the courts to discourage contact between co-witnesses who were usually barred from hearing each others' testimony in court.

"Despite these attempts to keep witness testimony independent, it is clear that witnesses often do talk to each other about the event," Dr Paterson said.

"Discussion among witnesses is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent."