Research in Brief: The Changing Story of Eyewitness Confidence and the Validity of Identification

The point has often been made that eyewitness misidentification played a role in 75 percent of the more than 300 wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence. These misidentifications by eyewitnesses were often made with high confidence in a court of law. On the surface, these facts understandably suggest that there is something seriously wrong with eyewitness memory (a problem that is often summarized by the phrase “eyewitness memory is unreliable”). However, a closer look at the evidence suggests that blaming eyewitnesses is neither fair nor accurate. The majority of available evidence indicates that eyewitness memory is quite reliable, and it was likely reliable even in those cases that ended with an exoneration.