Reliable witnesses are not really

Often, the credibility of witnesses will be cited as support that what the witness says is accurate or true.

That is, a law enforcement officer or pilot or military personal will be seen as more reliable than a clerk or teacher or non-professional. It’s true that observation is a learned skill. But who is well-trained at observation in stressful or low-light conditions? Everyone is pretty bad at that even when we expect it or try hard. Emotions and auto-responses take over. Our senses and our brain interpretation of the events are limited.

On Doubtful News this past week, there were two instances of “credible observation” that failed this common assumption that certain people are more reliable observers.

First, a state trooper (law enforcement), observed a falling green object. He was certain it crashed into the lake was heading towards a town. After thorough checks by emergency personnel, nothing was found to have landed. Another observer was sure it landed in the lake. It appears that the object was not a UFO or craft but a meteor and the observer just miscalculated that is landed nearby. It likely didn’t land at all.

Green falling object causes publicity surge about UFO in Connecticut (UPDATED: Silly and serious)

Second comes the story of a sleep-deprived pilot who mistook Venus for an oncoming aircraft [added] for a moment, misinterpreted the position of the real oncoming craft and put the plane into evasive action, injuring some people on board. Venus is particularly bright right now and often mistaken for something other than the planet.

No one is immune from misperceptions: Pilot mistakes Venus for aircraft

Yep. No one is immune. The next time someone says that so-and-so is a reliable witness, say, “we all stink at it”. Our eyes and brains deceive us.

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