Scott Fraser: The problem with eyewitness testimony

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Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes — and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create “memories” they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum.

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46 COMMENTS

  1. This man is innocentᵃˡʳᶦᵍʰᵗ they couldn't seeᵃˡʳᶦᵍʰᵗ it was too darkᵃˡʳᶦᵍʰᵗ

  2. Although I understand how difficult it can be to fulfill my suggestion, I wish there would be some statistics to back up the story and illustrate the scope of the problem

  3. I have a few thoughts about this. First, I wish there were many more people like Scott Fraser doing similar work. Second, I wish we had more JUDGES like the one he worked with. Third, I wish people could realize that what they "know" to be the truth isn't always even close to that truth. And last, I wish I could give dozens of stars for this TED video! 🙂

  4. Why is it an important turning point when the judge went to the crime scene? Should this be a standard practice for important trials?

  5. Bull $hit. I watched the 911 footage again after hearing this man talk about the 911 towers collapsing. It was live TV! Plus If what he says is true, then every network, who are competing to be the first with any new footage, had to agree to cut all live feeds and then wait 24 hours until they rolled the footage. If this were the case, then that screams of conspiracy! I think this man has a good point, but his claim about the footage of the second tower is easily proven wrong. Why would they not show the second tower collapsing? We saw building seven come down later that afternoon, so why that one and not the second tower? Stupid claim.

  6. The impact of the first tower wasn't filmed because nobody was expecting it. After the first tower was hit was when the broadcast crews went out to begin videoing and captured the second tower being hit, then the first tower collapsed, then the second tower.
    I find it strange that our memories aren't as sharp and accurate as we think they are. It makes me wonder how much memories I have are true or what I want to be true. We tend to want to forget the bad things that happen, it makes sense that our subconscious plays tricks and twists the information. Thank you Mr. Fraser for an informative speech as it will help me in my studies towards criminology and analysis.

  7. Excellent speech and a very interesting story, but i will say one thing; the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. I wish Scott Fraser took the time to look at the attacks in detail, he would be convinced in less than a day.

  8. Photographers out there will know the problems of trying to match a photo to what the human eye can see at night.

    I just wonder if he used some form of HDR, just took a single exposure, or something more advanced that I am not aware of for the examples he was using.

    I suspect a single exposure… Which would be a terrible representation.

  9. If I understood him correctly about the second tower collapse he said it was not shown on live TV he is wrong. I was watching live American TV and saw the second plane hit (the anchor in the studio commented on what she had just seen and was very shocked) and subsequently it collapsed. I am certain I am correct. Does anyone agree?

  10. "you can look at it for as long as you want". That drove shivers down my spine, the kind shivers you get when listening to beautiful music or watching a perfect view of nature.

  11. Oh dear, 'no reliable colour perception, which is crucial for face recognition' is just wrong – for a start, people can recognise faces from black-and-white images perfectly well. (I did my PhD on aspects of forensic face recognition)

  12. A good presentation on an important psychological topic, however Fraser makes a mistake when he claims that the WTC 2 collapse footage was not broadcast until the next day. The second plane impact and the collapse of both towers were all broadcast live, as news crews were covering the aftermath of the first plane impact. It was actually the first plane impact itself that was not broadcast until the next day, but many people mis-remember seeing it at the time.

  13. I wonder why he didn't continue to mention the exotic explosions that ran down the towers ahead of the pile driving effect through 70 stories…And why the government's account is more valid than the eyewitnesses who saw explosions and how a group of 2500 architects and engineers for 9/11 truth are going around the world to spread awareness of the true scientific look at the events. I thought Ted talks was better than this…you can't bring up 9/11 and then go back to a very small subject regarding only one person. Millions have died due to 9/11 and it is sad that Ted won't stand up for what's right. I see no 9/11 videos worth watching, you are guilty of spreading disinformation. The people who did 9/11 are still in power.

  14. What he should have said was how soon after the first plane hit did the second tower fall. Since we did not see the first plane hit we assume it was right before the second plane hit reality says th difference was 44 minutes . Tho most assume less than 10 minutes.

  15. Is anyone else confounded by his conjecture about 9/11?  The South Tower collapsed at 9:59 am, less than an hour after being hit by the hijacked airliner, and at 10:28 am the North Tower collapsed. His initial memory was in fact correct. Although, his premise is cohesive and clear; eyewitness testimony is fallible because memory is a subjectively reconstructed account of past events.

  16. Does the psychological effect of 'Priming' play a role in false eyewitness testimonies? Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus. 

  17. The guy was set free because it was demonstrated that the witnesses could not have possibly seen him in the car – not because science has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Which means that only a small percentage of people who were (or are being) falsely convicted based on eyewitness testimony ever have a chance to prove their innocence (which they should NOT have to do at all, if the system worked as it is supposed to).

  18. ending at 3:37 Doesn't gun shot residue stay on your arm for at least a day? How about whatever clothing the guy was wearing? Surely they would have tested it for gunshot residue?

  19. I was about to mention that we did see the collapse but a lot of people falsely remember seeing the first plane hit Including G.W. Bush who said in a town hall meeting months later that he saw the first plane hit on TV.

  20. He is wrong. Good thing there is an archive of all TV broadcasts from the week of 9 11. Check it out at the website ht tp://ar chiv e.o rg/details/911/day/20010911#/ It shows the second tower collapsing on live TV broadcast on multiple channels. I had to add the spaces in the website in order to post it.

  21. Stanxml, but if that his claim, he's plain wrong, and a quick YT search will show it. Check any archive footage of the day. The second collapse was shown live (some networks were doing talking heads live, so you miss the first couple of seconds live, but then it is repeated minutes later), and then repeated over and over as B-roll on all stations. It is simply untrue that footage of the second collapse was not shown or repeated until 9/12.

  22. Then you'll have to enlighten all of us. Because he says "there was absolutely no media footage of the second trade tower collapsing until over twenty four hours after the event" (7:41) which is untrue, not only was it live on all major networks, it was repeated many many times as B-roll in the hours after, as you can see if you watch any archive of the day. So either he is plain wrong, or he is quoting something wrong.

  23. That's the only study I could find that was near to his claim, so I think it very likely to be the one he's trying to talk about. It talks about the *first* impact. Many people falsely remembered seeing the first impact, when actually it was more than 24 hours later that the footage of that impact was aired. There's no doubt many people saw the second impact, as it was on 24 hour news by then. And all the archived livestreams show both collapses.

  24. Are you sure it's that study? He made a big deal about the how the footage of the second collapse was delayed. If we're talking about impacts, the second crash was on live TV – no delay there.

  25. The scary thing of course is that, although it's nice that he is no longer in prison the fact remains someone (maybe even him) still murdered someone and that someone is out there somewhere.

  26. The people upvoting you and yourself did not really listen to what he said. This proves his point further.

  27. hmm… you trying to imply that a lot of people are wrongly accusing some people from 911?

    I want people to look in to it more because I don't think it is who they say it is! Or who it was?

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