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Neuroscience and Society: How Reliable is Eyewitness Testimony?

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Description This assignment asks students to read and watch resources about memory and eyewitness testimony. Students then must answer questions about why multiple eyewitnesses may have conflicting statements. Students must also suggest policies for taking eyewitness statements.
Type of Resource Assignment/Activity (Non-Laboratory/Non-Hands on Activity)
Format Word Document - DOC
Katie Wilkinson, San Jose State University
Development Date November 3, 2014
Grade/Age Levels Undergraduate lower division (Grades 13-14)
Undergraduate upper division (Grades 15-16)
Learning Time 2-3 hours
Language English
Type of Review Reviewed By LifeSciTRC Board
Review Date April 9, 2015
Funding Source None
Suggested Use

This classroom activity, Neuroscience & Society: How Reliable is Eyewitness Testimony?, captures student attention by drawing on a current event, the  shooting of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in the summer of 2014.. Through a series of class and group readings, students are introduced to problems with the reliability of eyewitness testimony. Class readings  include eyewitness statements compiled for PBS Newshour and a TED talk on memory by Elizabeth Loftus. Groups of students read additional articles outside the classroom on the mechanism of memory formation by the brain, the use of police body cams, and the reliability of eyewitness testimony. They report their findings to the class.  Students then apply their knowledge to a series of questions regarding memory and eyewitness testimony.  The activity provides students with an opportunity to apply the process of science and to examine firsthand the relationship between science and society.

cindy surmacz, Bloomsburg University

This activity refers to a well-known current event to demonstrate how memories, perception and opinions are formed and influence human behavior.  The brain mechanisms involved in memory formation can be coupled to this activity to generate a greater impact upon student learning.  I expect to use it in my upper level undegraduate classes in anticipation of much student participation in class discussion!

Nuran Kumbaraci, Stevens Institute of Technology


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