Human memory processes are not as straightforward as technological processes, which sometimes makes them distorted. I have experienced this phenomenon myself, as I cannot always recall the events as they were or even remember certain situations in the first place. This misunderstanding causes not only psychological issues for abuse victims but problems in legal procedures (Loftus, 2003). In this paper, I will examine why my memory recollections are partially inaccurate and why it is necessary to utilize the eyewitness report and victim statements with care.
Memory is not fixed and is inherently changeable and malleable under specific circumstances. According to Loftus (2002), sometimes, products of imagination can become a memory. In my experience, I agree that I tend to misrepresent some events when describing them to others or even to myself. I easily forget what I ate for lunch and can mistake the menu for that of the dinner while remembering more critical events.
However, I know that memories of distant events can gradually deteriorate in their quality as well. I was once convinced that I knew a person I was talking to from meeting them in a restaurant they had never been in, as it turned out. I did not accept their denial of my claims about that night. It is possible that there was a reason behind this distortion, such as a stressful event, a lack of attention, or a planted memory (Loftus, 2003). Even after describing my encounter with them in great detail, they only looked at me with profound misunderstanding. I think that I might have met another person with similar features whom I somehow replaced in my head with a different individual. The reason why I believed that it was them might lie in the lack of notable events at that restaurant on that day or the unimportance of that person.
Such memories could become a source of malpractice in psychological therapy. Loftus (2002) describes one case of such a situation, “…in Chicago for a woman and her two young children who were led to believe falsely that they were victims of satanic ritual abuse” (p. 42). Under certain conditions, people can form imagined memories, which can profoundly impact their statements or even worldviews. It might be impossible for witnesses of horrific incidents to tell real memory and imagination apart, leading to extensive and complex psychological issues. It is not proper to take this memory into account in legal procedures (Loftus, 2003). However, studies in psychology have revealed methods of detecting falsified memories or preventing their generation. Other psychiatrists agree on the unreliability of eyewitnesses’ statements depending on their involvement in an incident, yet there are methods that can separate facts from fiction (Wulff & Thomas, 2021). There are ways of questioning people that can help psychiatrists to construct a complete picture of an event while avoiding becoming outside influencers, yet a single witness is unlikely to provide a reliable report.
In conclusion, memory is malleable and prone to mistakes in its formation and recollection stages. Knowing my tendency to forget and be mistaken about my memories, I realize that such distortions can be a result of stress, a heightened emotional state, or an outside influence. A psychologist that analyzes memories of eyewitnesses should expect such causes to make one’s statements irregular and unsuitable for use as a valid account. A human’s long-term memory storage is not perfect, yet it is a crucial source of self-realization when one understands how and why their memories might have changed.
Loftus, E. F. (2002). Memory faults and fixes. Issues in Science and Technology, 18(4), 41-50.
Loftus, E. F. (2003). Our changeable memories: Legal and practical implications. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4(3), 231-234.
Wulff, A. N., & Thomas, A. K. (2021). The dynamic and fragile nature of eyewitness memory formation: Considering stress and attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 12.