Elizabeth Loftus's 1979 work, Eyewitness Testimony, explains why people sometimes remember events inaccurately, and how this simple fact has a profound impact on the criminal justice system. Eyewitness accounts, which are often used in criminal trials, can be very persuasive to both judges and juries. Yet these accounts are based on memories that are not always reliable, meaning that suspects may be misidentified or wrongfully convicted. Loftus recommends particular methods for gathering testimony that are less likely to distort memory, and suggests that experts on memory should be able to testify in court. Eyewitness Testimony paved the way for important reforms to the American criminal justice system, inspired cognitive scientists to continue researching how memory works, and helped to establish the new academic field of psychology and law. The book made Loftus a well-respected authority on the problems of eyewitness testimony, and it is her most significant work to date.
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