What does Eyewitness Memory have to do with Jury Consulting?
The doctoral dissertation of Magnus’ Director of Research, Dr. Melissa Pigott, was recently cited as determining the foundational limits of the strength of eyewitness memory. Inaccurate eyewitness memory has been noted as one of the leading causes of false convictions. Dr. Pigott’s study was groundbreaking in that it was a real world field study of the ability of bank tellers to identify a perpetrator in a staged crime. The dissertation was published in 1990 and is unique in that it was a field, not laboratory, study involving adults in a real world setting instead of college students. As such, the authors of a fall, 2008 article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied found Dr. Pigott’s research to provide the upper limit for the accuracy of eyewitnesses upon which all other assessments of such witnesses should be based. The article concludes that eyewitnesses, under optimal conditions, perform at about a 50% accuracy level, that is, a chance level.
Some of the research Dr. Pigott did as part of her graduate studies, beginning in 1980, involved the use of mock juries. Her world famous dissertation, mentioned above, was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and is one of many publications by Dr. Pigott. Her research in the area of psychology and the law led to her employment in the jury consulting field, and ultimately, to her founding of Magnus Research Consultants in 1993. Dr. Pigott’s expertise in cognitive psychology and social psychology was instrumental to her exploration of the eyewitness field from an angle which had not been previously explored. These same areas of expertise provide vital input to trial attorneys and their clients leading to the successful litigation of difficult cases.
For more information, see:
Deffenbacher, K.A., Bornstein, B.H., Mc Gorty, E.K., & Penrod, S.D. (2008). Forgetting the one-seen face: Estimating the strength of eyewitness’s memory representation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 14, 139-150.