Brushing Up Our Memories: Can We Use Neurotechnologies to Improve Eyewitness Memory?
Law, Innovation and Technology, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 203-221, 2009
26 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2010 Last revised: 2 Nov 2010
Date Written: 2009
Eyewitness testimony plays an important role in the apprehension, prosecution and adjudication of criminals. In their decision-making processes, law enforcement officials rely heavily oneyewitness reports and cases may sometimes be decided exclusively on the basis of eyewitness evidence. Unfortunately, the significance generally assigned to eyewitness evidence does not exactly match the actual accuracy of eyewitness memory. Given the consequences of vague, incomplete or inaccurate eyewitness testimony and the importance of this type of evidence in criminal justice, there is a need for methods to improve the memory of eyewitnesses in order to eventually obtain reliable evidence. Despite the fact that psychological research has improved the collection of eyewitness evidence over the past years, the majority of methods aiming at an enhancement of eyewitness memory, such as hypnosis and the cognitive interview, was found to have no or limited potential in leading to more reliable evidence. It is therefore necessary to explore new and potentially initially controversial methods for the improvement of eyewitness memory. Recent developments within the field of neuroscience provide insights into the possibility of using neurotechnologies for the purpose of cognitive enhancement. These technologies might be effective in improving eyewitness memory. Moreover, since neurotechnologies directly affect brain structures and processes, they may even lead to more reliable eyewitness evidence than current methods. The present paper discusses the possibility of improving eyewitness memory by means of neurotechnologies and addresses some of the considerations such practice would entail.
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