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Location: Mothership -> Ufo -> Updates -> 1996 -> Dec -> Re: Eyewitness Testimony

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Re: Eyewitness Testimony

From: "Steven J. Powell" <sjpowell@access.digex.net>
Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 11:48:27 -0500
Fwd Date: Sun, 29 Dec 1996 06:07:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Eyewitness Testimony

> From: "Jerry Cohen" <rjcohen@li.net>
> Subject: Re: UFO UpDate: Eyewitness Testimony

> Commentary on the following article:

> >The Eyewitness
> >Imperfect Interface
> >Between Stimuli and Story
> >James R. Reich, Jr.
> >(The Skeptical Inquirer, Vol. 17, No. 4, Summer 1993, Copyright 1993
> >by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the
> >Paranormal, 3965 Rensch Road, Buffalo, NY 14228, published quarterly
> >with a membership/subscription rate of $25/yr.)
> - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
> Incident at Exeter, New Hampshire *

The point of the article was _not_ that eyewitness observations
and testimony are 100% wrong, or 100% inacurate, or 100% irrelevant.

The point of the article was that eyewitness observations and testimony
are _frequently less than_ 100% right, _frequently less than_ 100%
accurate, and therefore _frequently less than_ 100% relevant.

(The other point was to demonstrate that scientific studies have been
done on this problem.)

> [...] ...unfortunately, the two-foot
> basketball player with a headache, driving a white sports car had just
> crashed into a six-story building and therefore missed the object
> which was reported by the four witnesses.

I apologise for not informing you in advance of the point of the
article.

The scientific studies we have to use as a baseline tell us that
eyewitness observations and testimony, _in general_, vary in accuracy
from 70% accurate to 45% accurate.  Of course there will be exceptions,
there will be some examples that are 100% inaccurate and some that are
100% inaccurate, and we would expect the range of total
accuracy/inaccuracy to be something like 30% to 55%.

We're talking about population studies here, studies done _in general_,
and it is inapplicable to attempt to extend _in general_ results to
_specific_ events and expect to find an exact match.

In your example what percentage level of inaccuracy is needed to
tentatively establish the _basic_ observations?  Four people saw the
same sized object, same lights, no sound, same maneuvering.  That they
all agree on those observations suggests that (assuming the testimony
was properly taken) those observations are accurate and representative
of what was there to be observed.

What other observations were made?  (We don't know.)  What accuracy
comparisons exist for them?  (We don't know.)  Would it matter if the
other observations were largely inaccurate?  (Most likely not.)

--

Thanks, take care.
John.

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[  sjpowell@access.digex.net  ]
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