If someone witnessed an event firsthand, chances are that person would remember it pretty clearly, right? Not according to a recent psychological study, in which almost half of those tested disbelieved their own experience in favor of a faked video recording of the event. This shows the importance of being able to re-analyze past events for accuracy.

Dr. Kimberly Wade of the University of Warwick found that fabricated video evidence can radically alter people’s perceptions. Study participants were filmed as they took part in a computerized gambling exercise. Unknown to them, each was seated next to a research team member with whom he or she competed for a prize.

After the exercise, the video recording was altered to make it appear that the researchers had cheated. The study’s subjects were then asked to confirm whether they had seen the person next to them cheat. Of those who were merely told that there was video evidence of the offense, only 10 percent indicated that the suspect had cheated. But almost 40 percent of those who were shown the faked video believed “the video version rather than what they actually saw.”1 An additional 10 percent of this group indicated that the suspect cheated when they were questioned a second time.

Wade concluded, “Over the previous decade we have seen rapid advances in digital-manipulation technology. As a result, almost anyone can create convincing, yet fake, images or video footage. Our research shows that if fake footage is extremely compelling, it can induce people to testify about something they never witnessed.”1

Actually, the participants did “witness” what they saw in the video, so a more accurate conclusion is that they testified to something that never occurred. In any case, they witnessed two versions of the same event—one in person and one through the altered footage—and had to choose which was real. When asked again about it, more became swayed by mentally reviewing the video “evidence.”….

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