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Why eyewitness testimony is almost worthless

One very common feature of people who believe in UFOs, supernatural entities (such as ghosts), psychic powers and so on, is their complete overreliance on eyewitness testimony. Most of these people put significantly more weight on it than they should, and there's probably not a single book or pseudodocumentary on the subject that doesn't extensively present eyewitness testimony as evidence of the phenomenon.

What most people (even including those who don't believe in such things) don't realize is that eyewitness testimony is not only unreliable, it's actually almost completely worthless. At most it can be used as a startup for investigation of the described phenomenon, but not as any kind of evidence.

Also, it doesn't matter how reliable the eyewitness is. It's very common to confuse these two things. In other words, the reliability of the person (in other words, how honest he is, how educated, how experienced, and so on) is equalled to how reliable his eyewitness testimony is. While experts on the actual subjects being dealt with might be more credible than laymen, their eyewitness testimony is still almost worthless and cannot be taken as evidence of anything.

There are many reasons why eyewitness testimony is almost worthless when determining the veracity of a claim or phenomenon.

All of the above can actually be tested, and they have been tested countless times, always with the same reasult: Humans are unreliable recorders of actual events. Often the results surprise even the researchers by how wrong people can get things. Yet people still don't want to believe this. They still put way too much weight on eyewitness testimony.

It's very common for people to argue that they trust the person who told them about the extraordinary event. "He is my best friend, I know him, and he would never lie to me." However, in the majority of cases it's not a question of honesty. That friend may be completely honest, but that doesn't mean he is right. He may be honest, but he is human, and humans are completely unrealiable eyewitnesses.

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