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on Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 12:18 pm by Radley Balko
and is filed under General Criminal Justice.
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I’ll be there’s a higher rate a females who notice the change than men. My own sister will remember all sorts of details when describing something that happened to the both of us. Usually these are mundane and irrelevant details that I wouldn’t have wasted my time paying attention to, but for some reason she notices. I’ve also had girlfriends who did the same thing.
It is interesting to think about this in the context of eyewitness testimony. If you were in on the switcheroo in the psych experiment, you’d notice it immediately. If you knew a drive-by shooting was going to happen (and for the sake of the hypothetical, say you were in a safe place to observe from), you could probably be paying attention and might make a fairly decent eye-witness. The thing is most crimes don’t happen when people are paying attention and I’d guess that a fair number of them happen pretty fast before anyone can really differentiate who’s who. For example in the drive-by scenario people would be scrambling for cover instead of making a concerted effort to identify and remember faces or other distinguishing features of the attackers.
Even paying attention doesn’t ensure correct identification. See Picking Cotton.
Plus there is the problem of memories changing. It’s not difficult to subtly plant a false or new memory by simply stating something about the event in front of an eyewitness. Mentioning the color of an article of clothing, for example, can influence the eyewitness to actually think they saw that color of pants.
Or in the drive by shooting example, asking a witness if they saw the shooter reload the machine-gun and continue to fire? Suddenly the witness remembers a machine-gun being used.
I saw another video like this where the set up is that the video is going to show you a magic trick with cards. However during the cuts in the video the tablecloth is changed, the back drop is changed, the shirts of both people in the video was changed and a couple of the decorations on the table were changed out, even the deck of cards were changed out to a different deck with new backs on the cards.
At the end of the video they explained change blindness and how by focusing on the magic trick you didn’t notice that everything else in the video, even the changing color of the deck.
I agree with John that if the person behind the counter was female, more people would have caught it. Men are always evaluating a woman’s desirability and whether they could get her into bed if they had a chance. A change in women would have altered both parts of that equation in some way and thus been noticeable since it would force a recalculation.