Memory maintains the power to shape our realities: it can rewrite the past, influence our future, and it constantly informs our present. When synaptic connections fire to retrieve desired information passing between neurons, memories appear to be amorphous, fluid, and impressionable. They are not set in stone, but rather open to edits and alterations belonging to the observer in question. Our recall is like time-lapse photography, with frames lined up side by side to create a living and dynamic succession of events that are rich with colors, sounds, scents, textures, and feelings. The human mind constantly oscillates back and forth across the timeline, spanning decades of experiences in mere seconds to retrieve information, or otherwise dodging the present moment by indulging in future fantasy. We can dismantle and reconstruct, omit or add to memories, whether or not we are fully conscious of having done so.
Memory can be used to incriminate or liberate, to substantiate the pain we feel from past wrongs or disappointments, or to romanticize the moments we have archived as noteworthy and meaningful. We use it to defend the authenticity of who and what we are, but when we employ it to illustrate the full Truth, our own perception and biases can sometimes distort its integrity. In the case of eyewitness testimonies, it has been proven that memory can not only be distorted and is often unreliable, but that the consequences of its fallibility can be devastating. Out of the nearly three hundred cases of wrongful convictions accessible at InnocenceProject.org, DNA testing overturned three quarters of the cases which relied solely on eyewitness testimony to produce a verdict. The Innocence Project is an organization and interactive database that defends the wrongfully accused by way of DNA testing and challenging the present criminal justice system. It provides readers, researchers, and civil rights groups with an invaluable resource to aid them in their efforts to change the system and succeed at proving the innocence of those they represent.
- Innocence Project,
- Memory Restoration,
- Neurological Studies,
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/juliannehenderson/1/