Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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Forensic psychology

Week 3: Seeing and not seeing

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GRAHAM PIKE
Hello and welcome to the third week of this course. So far, we've looked at how unreliable our memories can be, and how suggestible they are.
The two eyewitnesses to the armed robbery remembered quite different things. Either because they'd forgotten details of what happened or simply did not notice everything that was going on.
CATRIONA HARVARD
One way that psychologists have researched the mind is through examining cognitive processes of perception, attention and memory. This week we'll see that just because our eyes perceive something, does not mean that we necessarily notice it.
Our memories don't work like a computer. Instead we construct stories of the events we have seen in the past, and we'll see that in doing this we can be open to suggestion from others and can even sometimes think we remember seeing things that we did not see.
GRAHAM PIKE
You'll also get to test your own powers of observation. And see how witnesses are affected by stress and the presence of a weapon.
Good luck, see you next week.
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For a witness to remember something, they first need to see it and notice it. It goes without saying that you cannot remember something if you did not see it. But is it possible to see something, but not notice it?

In producing their initial statements, both Lila and Seth had to make use of their memory for the crime. In Week 2, you considered the reliability of witness memory, particularly for certain types of information.

The branch of psychology that studies the mental processes used by the brain is known as cognitive psychology, and it divides the way the brain deals with information into sets of different processes:

  • Perception – refers to how the mind interprets the information that is received by our senses (such as sight and hearing). For example, the light that enters our eyes is transformed by the brain into electrical impulses that are analysed to allow us to make sense of the world around us.
  • Attention – is the processes involved in noticing different things around us. As you sit here reading this page, it is likely that the only thing you are attending to is this text, but of course you are also perceiving a great deal of additional information about the world around you. Attentional processes therefore allow us to focus on just part of our environment.
  • Memory – allows us to encode, store and then later retrieve the information that has been perceived and attended to. Of course, not all the information we see and notice is remembered, and even the information that is stored in memory may be quite different to what we actually saw.

So far you have been concentrating on the memory of an eyewitness, but now you’ll consider the roles played by perception and attention. One key question to ask here, is what do witnesses tend to notice, and is it possible for a witness to completely miss a significant event that happens right in front of them?

FPSY_1

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