Have you ever thought back on a memory only to realize that what you were remembering was a picture you have of the event? Have you ever told a story, feeling very sure of yourself, only to have someone else who was also there tell a very different story?
We trust our memories, and we feel like they’re accurate. These types of experiences, however, show that they’re not always accurate. They can change. They can be altered. Outside information — like a photograph — can make you sure that you remember something that you actually do not remember at all.
The issue has to do with the neurons that are activated when we think of memories, according to some scientists. They have a theory that you lose the neurons that you use least often, but that remembering something does not always activate the same ones. As different — but similar — neurons get more use, they start to frame the memory itself and can change it. The researchers believe that “memories are transformed each time we revisit them.”
Now you can see why your memories aren’t that static. What does this mean for criminal cases? It could play a large role. Is that confident eyewitness remembering the event correctly? Have they changed their story based on outside information such as photographs or other people’s accounts of the incident? Are they altering their memory by thinking it over so often? If so, can you trust that memory in court?
Those who are facing charges need to understand how this works and what legal defense options they have when the case against you involves eyewitnesses.