Author Archives: annatorres

Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitnesses have been a controversial form of legal testimony for several years, and scientists have not been able to come to a conclusive answer — are they reliable? This question has interested me for a long time, between being an avid watcher of Criminal Minds and discussing it briefly in class, I wanted to be knowledgeable in both sides of the argument.

An eyewitness testimony is when a person witnesses a crime and recalls the details for the court at a later date. During their testimony, it is possible that various law enforcement members and attorneys may question them, ask them to describe or identify the perpetrator, and so on. In the beginning of the semester, eyewitness testimonies were mentioned in class, but only because they were claimed to be inaccurate. What are some factors that deem this legal proceeding as unreliable?

The misinformation effect, a memory error caused by exposure to incorrect information between the original event and later memory test, is a common confound in eyewitness testimony. These lapses in memory can range from minuscule details to finite observations that are crucial to the outcome of a prosecution. For example, if a crime occurs and two people witness it, it is likely that they will communicate what they saw to each other while they wait for the authorities to arrive on scene. By doing this, the witnesses reinforce their similar memories for the event, but also force false ones into each other’s memories. False memory also plays a role in why eyewitness testimonies can be considered unreliable. False memories are memories that never actually occurred, but a person can recall them like they really did. Memory biases contribute to the inaccuracy of the testimonies, because it is possible for people to forget events, or mix up important details. Obviously, eyewitness’ testimony can be altered by a variety of different things, even by leading questions, which is why they have been deemed inaccurate and unreliable for the most part.

I find this topic to be interesting because in most legal proceedings, eyewitness testimonies are used. Wrongful convictions are a common consequence of faulty eyewitnesses; they account for at least 75% of DNA exoneration cases — more than any other cause. With so much evidence suggesting that the human memory cannot be trusted to accurately recall events, then why do we continue to use witness testimonies?


Tide Pod Challenge

There were several notable times throughout my twenty-one years of life that I truly wondered how stupid the human species could be. A few immediately come to mind, such as “the Cinnamon Challenge,” “Snort a Condom Challenge,” and “the Kylie Jenner Challenge,” all of which were idiotic and could pose a threat to a person’s health. I never thought that there would be a challenge that could legitimately make me question the intelligence of humans.

For those who do not know what the “Tide Pod Challenge” is, it is when people (mostly teenagers and young adults) videotape themselves eating a Tide Pod. That’s right, a literal laundry detergent pod. Some innovators even sauté their choice of Tide Pod in a frying pan before they enjoy the snack.

The American Association of Poison Control has been forced to make several statements warning people of the dangers that can (and will) occur after consuming a Tide Pod. Eating a laundry detergent pod can cause seizures, respiratory arrest, and even death. There have been over eighty-six cases of teenagers being exposed to the high concentrations of Tide Pods (in the first three weeks of 2018 alone), and children hospitalized suffered from vomiting, loss of consciousness, and difficulty breathing.

So, why, do you ask? Why would anyone wake up and decide they wanted to videotape themselves eating a Tide Pod?

The non-scientific answer would be for attention. Many of these children, teenagers, and young adults post their videos on social media platforms, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook with the hopes that millions of people will witness their stupidity and maybe laugh at their suffering. However, in a cognitive psychology perspective, one could argue that the participants have a developing frontal lobe.

Emerging adolescence is a very important stage of life, between childhood and adulthood, in which our brains are developing connections that make the brain work efficiently and effectively. In this case, the frontal lobe is crucial. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that controls a variety of functions, such as emotional expression, memory, language, and sexual behaviors, but most importantly, insight and judgement. Insight and judgement control risk-taking behavior.

Basically, teenagers behave without much thought involved. They quickly learn without the brain processes to tell them that their behavior could possibly be fatal, because their conscience is clouded with the possibility of positive reinforcement from the internet. Of course, not every emerging adolescent has the urge to swallow a Tide Pod. Not every young adult lacks insight or judgement. The most logical explanation for those that have participated in the Tide Pod Challenge is an underdeveloped frontal lobe, which then causes them to behave in risky behavior. However, they might just be stupid.

Between a developing frontal lobe and the positive reinforcement that the participants anticipate receiving, I believe that observational learning is a massive contender in the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Observational learning is a theory developed by Albert Bandura. In his theory, he claims that when a person observes someone else engaging in a certain behavior, it can produce new behaviors and either increase or decrease the frequency of that behavior. Had the “Tide Pod Challenge” not gone viral and reached millions of people, there is a very slim chance that so many people would have participated.

Sources: Harvard Health Blog / Dangers of Eating Tide Pods