Ferguson: Perception, Memory, And Darren Wilson’s Acquittal
The analysis of the testimonies presented to the grand jury investigating if the death of Michael Brown amounted to a crime highlights the way our memory operates.
Two PBS journalists “read and analyzed more than 500 pages of witness testimony and compared each statement to those given by Officer Darren Wilson.”
As shown in the table reproduced below, inconsistencies abound in the witness statements. They cover such important elements as the position of Michael Brown’s hands and body when he was shot by Darren Wilson.
It illustrates once again that our memory doesn’t work like a video recording of an event. We reconstruct this event each time we remember its occurrence. Memory is an active process.
Our brain cannot store all the information it needs to process. Therefore, it captures the quintessence of our experiences and forms associations between different memories. Also, our mood at the time of recollection influences our memory. In addition, new experiences alter the neural connections in our brain and affect our memories*.
This is why several people may have a different recollection of the same event without necessarily being wrong or dishonest. Memory is a matter of perception.
* Please excuse the oversimplification.