minnow at minnow at
Tue Feb 24 10:54:39 EST 2004

I wrote, and Gili replied:

>>>>  Any policeman who has to listen to evidence given in
>court about any Road Traffic Incident knows that whilst most if not all of
>the witnesses don't actively mean to tell *lies*, they may get such things
>as the direction in which the vehicles were facing, their colours, the
>number of vehicles on the scene, the distances from one place to another,
>and who arrived first, simply wrong, demonstrably wrong, and yet be sure
>that they are telling the truth about what they saw.
>And any student of psychology will tell you that their memories can be
>affected by how they are questioned. (I.E., if you are asked, "how fast was
>the car driving when it smashed into the taxi" you are likely to give a
>higher estimate than if you are asked "how fast was the car driving when it
>bumped into the taxi", and in later retellings you are likely to alter your
>version of what happened. Or if you are asked, "where was the stopsign", you
>are likely to remember a stopsign, even if there wasn't one there. As
>demonstrated in some very famous experiments.)

Yes.  I didn't want to get into too many ramifications, but yes.  This is
why insurance companies are made very happy if the victims of an accident
take the time, as soon as possible after whatever hit them has finished
happening, to write down what they think happened and what they think they
saw: it's likely not to have been quite so altered by subsequent
consideration and working out of "what must have happened" if it is done
soon after the event.

This is not to say that the victim deliberately lies to put things in a
better light for him- or herself, because quite often it goes the other
way: not being able to believe that the other person would have done
something so impossibly stupid comes into play too!


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