The New York Times reported on the power of false memory, graphically illustrated by the case of an unprovoked hammer attack that ended in the shooting of the attacker. Witness Anthony O'Grady reported that the man was trying to get away from a police officer when he was gunned down. Another witness, Sunny Khalsa, said that the attacker was handcuffed when he was shot.
But there was surveillance video and:
Contrary to what Mr. O’Grady said, the man who was shot had not been trying to get away from the officers; he was actually chasing an officer from the sidewalk onto Eighth Avenue, swinging a hammer at her head. Behind both was the officer’s partner, who shot the man, David Baril.
And Ms. Khalsa did not see Mr. Baril being shot while in handcuffs; he is, as the video and still photographs show, freely swinging the hammer, then lying on the ground with his arms at his side. He was handcuffed a few moments later, well after he had been shot.
There is no evidence that the mistaken accounts of either person were malicious or intentionally false. Studies of memories of traumatic events consistently show how common it is for errors to creep into confidently recalled accounts, according to cognitive psychologists
I wish the press would discuss this phenomenon more often when offering news analysis that cites the accounts of witnesses.