Now you see me…or do you?

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find myself, not only on trial in Canada for the murder of two men but also being suspected of being a serial killer. Now, before you think there will be no further novels from me, I can assure you it wasn’t me, but had I lived in Canada, eyewitness testimony could easily have had me identified as the suspect.

The two photos below show me and the real suspect side by side. When shown this way, the resemblance is perhaps not as strong, but certainly close enough to cause a reasonable doubt, and the photo on the right certainly stopped me in my tracks and had me thinking that perhaps I was leading a double life.

Myself and the alleged murderer. Would eyewitness testimony see me arrested?
Myself and the alleged murderer

Some of you may know, some years ago I took a degree in psychology and went on to study forensic psychology for two years as a post grad. One of the many areas that interested me was eyewitness testimony. It can be manipulated by the way the witness is questioned to the point that people will swear they saw something they did not.

A classic experiment using a video of two vehicles colliding. One group was asked to estimate the speed of one of the vehicles when the collision occurred, a second group was asked a similar question but in this case the phrasing was ‘smashed into the other vehicle.’ This change of wording resulted in a significant increase in the estimated speed.

In another experiment, people were given a photograph then asked to pick out the same person from a hundred photographs. Twenty-five percent could not achieve the task even though they had a copy of the photograph in front of them.

There are numerous cases of people being wrongly convicted as a result of eyewitness testimony and subsequently being pardoned, and it still carries much weight, yet it remains one of the most unreliable forms of testimony. In my opinion, no one should ever be convicted on eyewitness testimony alone.

So now you know where to look for me if you don’t hear from me for a while.

5 Replies to “Now you see me…or do you?”

  1. I always wonder how any witness can testify in a court case – perhaps a year after the event. I don’t recognise friends’ cars, let alone remember which car was the get away. We don’t walk down the street memorising what someone looks like and what they are wearing just in case they are about to commit a murder!

    1. The brain is easily fooled. We are a jack of all trades and masters of none. While studying the psychology I did experiments getting people to see things that weren’t there. It’s much easier than you would think.

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