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Forensic psychology
Forensic psychology

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1 Mistaken identification

Although crime dramas focus more and more on the forensic analysis of physical evidence (e.g. DNA), the human element of the story, particularly the evidence provided by victims/witnesses, remains a compelling component.

In real life, eyewitness testimony plays an incredibly important role in police investigations. As eyewitnesses are human, the accuracy and usefulness of the evidence they provide can only be as good as the human mind allows. Understanding the psychology of how the mind works, particularly how we remember, is therefore a crucial component in helping to evaluate and improve police investigations.

Activity 1 Eyewitness identification

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Eyewitness identification evidence is a critical component of many criminal investigations, but how accurate is it?

Psychological research has shown that making even small changes to the way police obtain eyewitness evidence can have a profound effect on its accuracy. Watch the following video and follow the instructions.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_psychology_vid_1001_mistaken_identification_output.mp4
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Discussion

Reflect on how you did in the task and think about the implications for how your memory works. Do you think a witness’s memory of the perpetrator’s face should be trusted as evidence?