Source: ArtWolfe/Caters News
In her book, Eyewitness Testimony, Elizabeth Loftus explains how our brains do not record an event like video tape. The process is quite complex. There are three stages of how we form memories of an event. The first is how we perceive an event. As discussed above, we see there are various factors which influence how we can misperceive what we see. The next stage is retention. During this stage, discussing, or overhearing someone else's account of the same event can unintentionally manufacture new details and dramatically change the witness's memory. Finally, there is the retrieval stage where some time after the event, the witness is asked to recall specific details. Obviously, if there are flaws in the first two stages, the retrieval stage will be inaccurate. And even if the event was perceived accurately, details can be forgotten, leading to failure of retrieval. Furthermore, the conditions at the time of retrieval influence the accuracy. Some factors include what type of questions are asked, how the questions are worded and who is asking them. While Loftus's book focuses on the reliability of memory in criminal cases, it can be applied to other situations, including paranormal claims. Like witnesses of crimes, many witnesses of seemingly paranormal experiences report it caught them unexpectedly, feeling fear, and "it happened so fast", all which can increase the likelihood of misperception.
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