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.

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news.

0 thoughts on “Reliable witnesses are not really

  1. I am a 20 year US Navy veteran (retired). Navigation was my specialty. Of all the specialties in the Navy navigation is most closely associated with being a “trained observer”. It was my job to train the new lookouts and nothing in any training handbook, school, or program would prepare a person for identifying something he had never seen before in an unexpected situation. Training was limited to what you would expect to see on the sea: how to identify the different types of buoys, the running lights on ships, reporting nomenclature, bearings, estimated ranges, etc. 10 different people would give you 10 wildly different range estimates for something they have all seen a thousand times before. Throw in something they have never seen before and forget about it.

    I just read a report submitted to MUFON. Some guy has been observing a UFO hovering over his neighborhood in the same place for the last 2 months! “It’s one mile away”, he said. He filmed himself walking outside after sunset and points the camera up at the spot and says “And there it is!”. Watching the video it is obvious it was Venus. His range estimate was off by a factor of 40,000,000.

  2. I think you have a discrepancy here. You mention that “First, a state trooper (law enforcement), observered a falling green object. He was certain it crashed into the lake.” Then you have a link (Green Falling Object Causes Publicity Surge About UFO in Connecticut (Updated: Silly and Serious) to that post with quotes.
    When I follow the link and read the first quote at the top …”The trooper, who was in Warren, estimated it was headed for Morris; a driver on North Shore Road in Litchfield said it splashd into the lake, prompting a boat searchby firefighters.”
    This report says it was a driver that was certain it went into the lake, not the trooper.

    1. Thanks Kenny. You are right. I made corrections. I knew the cop reported it. Just got confused about the report it went into the lake.

  3. You know it’s funny. Those interested in paranormal phenomena often make a big deal out of personal credibility, It’s like before they even believe in the crackpot stuff, they start out by mythifying what one person can do with her own credibility. …which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me.

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