Reasons to doubt the reliability of eyewitness memory: Commentary on Wixted, Mickes, and Fisher (2018)


Wixted, Mickes, and Fisher (this issue) take issue with the common trope that eyewitness memory is inherently unreliable. They draw on a large body of mock-crime research and a small number of field studies, which indicate that high-confidence eyewitness reports are usually accurate, at least when memory is uncontaminated and suitable interviewing procedures are used. We agree with the thrust of Wixted et al.’s argument and welcome their invitation to confront the mass underselling of eyewitnesses’ potential reliability. Nevertheless, we argue that there is a comparable risk of overselling eyewitnesses’ reliability. Wixted et al.’s reasoning implies that near-pristine conditions or uncontaminated memories are normative, but there are at least two good reasons to doubt this. First, psychological science does not yet offer a good understanding of how often and when eyewitness interviews might deviate from best practice in ways that compromise the accuracy of witnesses’ reports. Second, witnesses may frequently be exposed to preinterview influences that could corrupt reports obtained in best-practice interviews.

Publication DOI:
Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences
Additional Information: © Sage 2018. The final publication is available via Sage at
Uncontrolled Keywords: application,law,memory
Publication ISSN: 1745-6916
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2024 07:15
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2018 15:00
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://journals ... cr_pub%3dpubmed (Publisher URL)
http://wrap.war ... (Organisation URL)
PURE Output Type: Letter
Published Date: 2018-05-01
Accepted Date: 2018-01-15
Authors: Wade, Kimberley A.
Nash, Robert A. (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-2284-2001)
Lindsay, D. Stephen



Version: Accepted Version

| Preview

Export / Share Citation


Additional statistics for this record