How can memory affect eyewitness testimony?

In cases with very little forensic evidence, eyewitness testimony becomes incredibly important. Prosecutors struggle to make an argument when there is no physical proof to substantiate their claims, but witnesses at the scene may back up their case. Unfortunately eyewitness testimony is not very reliable. Even if someone believes they are telling the truth, their memory may not be dependable as there are a number of things that could affect their recall. Here we take a look at some of the issues affecting memory in eyewitness testimony.


Frequently witnesses are victims themselves. More often than not, this means that the situation would have caused a great deal of stress and anxiety to that person. Whether their lives were being threatened or their property stolen, the crime would have put their mental and emotional strength to the test.

This strain on the mind affects the ability to form accurate memories. Under so much pressure and turmoil, performance in memory recall is often severely reduced.

Weapon focus

If someone pulls a gun to your head, chances are you are much more focused on that gun than the person holding it. Concentrating on a weapon to the exclusion of other key details is what is termed ‘Weapon focus’.

Studies have shown that victims are much less likely to provide accurate testimony if a weapon is involved. Witnesses usually struggle to remember details about the perpetrator and the crime scene as their attention is drawn only to the weapon.

Drugs and alcohol

Witnesses who were under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the crime may not provide reliable statements.

These kind of substances are well known for affecting memory in everyday situations. If someone has drank even a small amount of alcohol or taken routine medication, this may impede their ability to remember things accurately.

If eyewitness testimony is affecting your case, get in touch with ICFECI. ICFECI can get the real answers and assist in even the most difficult cases – found out how we can help by contacting us today.

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