The assessment of eyewitness memory for people and events

Carolyn Semmler, Neil Brewer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Eyewitness testimony is a fundamental form of evidence used in legal proceedings throughout the world. Its power both to convict and to exonerate is well documented. 1 Application of the science of memory to the assessment of eyewitness testimony has led to counter intuitive, unsettling and sometimes controversial claims. In 1908, Professor Hugo Munsterberg’s treatise on the application of the science of psychology to the legal system, titled On the Witness Stand, signaled the birth of the field of experimental psychology and law. 2 Even this first application of the psychological science of memory to the law was at odds with a basic assumption upon which many legal systems rely—the belief that memory is a permanent, fixed and immutable source of fact. 3 Although that belief has long since changed, the sheer number and variety of ways that memory can be influenced has meant that the law has not kept pace with this body of knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Litigator’s Handbook of Forensic Medicine, Psychiatry and Psychology (Vol.2, pp.1-89).
EditorsDemosthenes Lorandos
Place of PublicationEgan, MN
PublisherThompson Reuters
Pages9:1 - 9:25
Number of pages59
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Memory
  • Eyewitness memory
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Forensic science


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