THE WRONG MAN
|A||In Alfred Hitchcock’s film The Wrong Men, Manny Ballestero is a musician who lives in New York. Life isn’t easy for Manny. His wife is ill and he has bills to pay. Finally he is forced to cash in an insurance policy. When he goes to the local insurance office, the employees seem strangely nervous. Manny looks just like thief who robbed them the year before. While Manny is waiting, one of them makes a phone call. Several minutes later the police arrive. They arrest Manny and take him to prison.|
|B||The film is a true story of mistaken identity, but with a happy ending. Manny is eventually released. However, what the story shows is that our memory of a face or an event is not always perfect, even in an extreme situation. So just how reliable is it?|
|C||‘Evidence suggests that our recall of a frightening event is stronger,’ says Professor Frank Turner. ‘But even in these situations our memory can be distorted by certain details. For example, if the crime involves a gun, a witness will probably focus on the weapon. As a result, other things are not easy to remember. Memories of a criminal’s face, what they say or do, or of other people present are less reliable.’|
|D||Experiments have also shown that our ability to identify people often depends on how we saw them. For example, a three-quarter view of a face is much easier to remember than a profile. And then there is the amount of disguise. You’ll still have a good chance of identifying someone if they’re wearing glasses. But if they have a wig or a hat on, you’ll only have a 70% chance of recognition. If you then add or subtract a beard, it drops to 30%.|
|E||In fact, all kinds of things can confuse our memory. In one famous case, a scientist was arrested after a woman in New York picked him out in an identity parade. She was convinced he was the man who had broken into her house. However, the scientist was released a few hours later. Why? He had a very good alibi. He was actually on a live television show while the crime was in progress. The woman was watching the show when the burglar attacked her. What this proves is that our memories are sometimes mixed up, making a victim’s account of a crime even less reliable. When it comes to identifying people, we will more likely choose the wrong person.|
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