Filming an event on your phone? Don't rely on your witness memory in court

Published 4 October 2018
Smart phone filming event

We’re quick to pull out our mobile phones to film events in our lives to share on social media. But could that be leading to poor memory recall, particularly if we were witness to something we later had to recount in court?

Measuring the effects on witness memory of recording events with a smart phone is one of 43 research topics being presented by Southern Cross University students at their annual psychology Honours research conference in Coffs Harbour this week. View the view program.

Initial results from Jasmine Mourad’s study, ‘Put that phone down and look around you! How recording events can affect witness memory’, suggest a negative impact on memory, even if you were not looking at the phone at the time.

“This has implications for real life events and the criminal justice system,” said Jasmine. “For example, if your memory is worse for details overall, you will tend to be a less reliable witness and have less detailed autobiographical memories compared with someone just observing the event.

“This becomes an issue if the recording did not work for some reason or you did not record the important part of the event. But this is not such a problem for those parts of the event that you recorded as you could check the recording, and in that case the video becomes a memory assistive device.”

Another student Catarina Rodrigues will be presenting her study, ‘Are you blind or just not paying attention? How could you NOT SEE that airplane?’ which examines the cognitive processes that might sub-serve the fascinating and potentially dangerous phenomenon called inattention blindness.

“The most startling example of this is when pilots who are focused on an instrument display during landing may not even see another plane full of passengers on the landing strip right in front of them,” said Catarina.

“I’m investigating how we might screen for the basic abilities that would allow for someone to track one important task and still have the awareness of an unexpected visual stimulus.”

The 15th Annual Psychology Honours Research Conference is Thursday 4th and Friday 5th October. The community is welcome to attend this free and stimulating two-day event.

Conference convenor and Psychology Honours course coordinator Dr Gail Moloney said that as part of the Honours year in psychology all students undertake a major independent research project under the supervision of academic staff members.

“The projects are innovative and cover a broad range of topics. The students develop their ideas, design and run studies to test their ideas. A number of the projects involve organisations and individuals from across the community,” Dr Moloney said.

“Their discoveries make a real contribution to our understanding of human behaviour and this conference provides an opportunity to reveal the outcome of their hard work.”

Dr Moloney said the conference also provided an opportunity for the students to present their work in a formal setting, demonstrating their research expertise and ability to present the findings in a public forum.

Southern Cross University offers a range of psychology degrees at Coffs Harbour, Gold Coast and online:

  • Bachelor of Psychological Science
  • Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours
  • new in 2019 Bachelor of Psychological Science, Bachelor of Laws
  • new in 2019 Bachelor of Exercise Science and Psychological Science



15th Annual Psychology Honours Research Conference

October 4 and 5, 9am – 4.30pm each day

Room D350

Southern Cross University

Hogbin Drive, Coffs Harbour

Media contact: Sharlene King 0429 661 349