Giulia Melis

Ritratto Giulia Melis

Neuroscience, Technology and Society, XXXVI series
Grant sponsor

Università degli Studi di Padova
Giuseppe Sartori
Lamberto Ballan

Project description
My research project aims to study eyewitness' memory using Virtual Reality (VR) techniques. Eyewitness testimony is very invaluable evidence in criminal trials. Still, it produces a high miscarriage of justice, making wrongful convictions. This happens because several limitations contribute to making testimony inaccurate evidence, thereby increasing the risk of a miscarriage of justice. Considering the high stakes, to date, there are numerous studies about witness' memory, most of which are carried out in the laboratory and follow a standard forensic paradigm. The goals should be to equate the participants' memory with the witness' memory and expand the research on the eyewitness evidence used in the criminal trial. Nevertheless, some of the drawbacks of the empirical research on autobiographical memory and its translational value are related to several differences from the average court case. These studies are very far from reality because technologies and methodology currently used in cognitive experiments are not ecological to study eyewitness' memory. They don't look at the witness' memory but at the memory of a subject participating in an intentional memory experiment. To overcome these limits in research, with the aim to study the incidental memory of the witness who experiences a real event, making the experimental procedure more ecological but at the same time maintaining the advantages of the experimental context, in my research project, I will introduce VR techniques. This technology permits the participant to actively join in the event, not just looking at it from the outside but exposing him to a stimulus closer to reality than that obtained using a 2D screen. VR also permits monitoring behavior under controlled conditions repeatable in multiple tests while still giving the subject freedom of movement and placing it in a relatively natural environment, increasing the experimental paradigms' ecological validity.