Is Eyewitness Testimony Reliable? - Part II

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am a student studying as level psychology. I was wondering if you could possibly help me answer these questions? Currently we are finding information on eyewitness testimony. Here are the few questions.

  • How can after-the-fact information affect a witnesses memory of an event?
  • What research has been conducted on leading questions. What are the conclusions?

I would be very grateful if you could help me.

Yours faithfully


Hi Lucile,

Thank you so much for writing. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be of much help in your question. My area of expertise is not in all types of eyewitness testimony per se, but rather the specific events surrounding the resurrection, including the eyewitness testimony of the disciples of Jesus.

Most of the time when specialists refer to eyewitness testimony, they are speaking of those who have witnessed a crime. At the time people witness a crime, most are involved in other activities. When they recount what they remember, their recollection can be impeded by things such as concentrating on their own tasks, having a poor vantage point, the speed at which the events take place, not paying close attention, and lack of familiarity with the perpetrators or principals involved in the incident.

However, the events surrounding the resurrection don't fit into this category. The disciples had lived with Jesus for three years. They were well aware that those in power wanted to harm Jesus (Jn. 11:8). The events surrounding His death and resurrection followed methodical practices. (Indeed, the protocol for both His trial before the Sanhedrin and His appearance before Pilate were laid out as law and had been standard practice for quite some time.)

Finally, Jesus' death would have been the most cataclysmic event in the lives of the disciples, consuming their attention and making it very difficult to forget the circumstances surrounding it. Cataclysmic events have a way of etching themselves clearly into our memory. For example, I think most Americans who are old enough can tell you just where they were and what they were doing when they heard President Kennedy was assassinated. Similarly, the events of September 11 are engraved in all our memories, even more so for those who were in Manhattan.

I hope this has helped show some differences in the eyewitness testimony offered by the disciples versus much of the testimony offered in our courtrooms today. Let me know if you would like further clarification on anything I've written and I pray that you will be continue to seek the truth in all things.

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