In the early 20th century, Hugo Munsterberg, the father of industrial and applied psychology, began looking into the unreliability of eyewitness testimony after he was called to testify against a burglar who had robbed his home. In "On the Witness Stand," a collection of popular articles on the topic, Munsterberg writes that even under oath, he misstated several observations such as the number of suits that were stolen and the robber's point of entry. Munsterberg uses these arguments to say that the legal system's traditional way of preventing these mistakes is ineffective. By ensuring that witnesses are under oath at trial, witness sincerity becomes paramount to the reliability of an identification or testimony, when in reality sincerity is not at issue. He also criticizes juries' reliance on eyewitness demeanor to indicate confidence and accuracy. Despite the fact that these arguments were made some time ago, they still remain issues that we face today. As the rest of the book shows, some people have been and are still opposed to putting findings from psychological research to practice. For example, in 1909, John Henry Wigmore wrote an article in the Illinois Law Review in response to "On the Witness Stand," challenging Munsterberg's overstatements that psychology could help prevent all wrongful convictions.
There were a few AP style rules I learned in these past two weeks. First, the correct term to describe "driving under the influence of alcohol" is "drunken driving," and not the colloquial "drunk driving." Besides that, I learned that the words "infer" and "imply" have opposite meanings; a listener or reader infers, and a speaker implies. In addition, I learned that Catholic, when it is used in the uppercase, refers to the religion (e.g., Catholic church). When it is used in the lowercase, "catholic" means "all-embracing."
I hope these tips will serve you well the next time you write! 'Til next week..
I came across this student article on eyewitness identification and wrongful convictions this week.
Doyle, J. M. (2005). True witness: Cops, courts science, and the battle against misidentification. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.