Saturday, August 8, 2009


I surprised myself yesterday by guessing, correctly, that a piece of art on a blogger-friend's blog was the work of Pierre Bonnard. I did not realize, until I looked more closely at her challenge, that the art on her blog header was only a clip from the painting, not the entire thing. Yet I guessed it correctly. The only explanation as to how I managed to do that was that I had recently been looking at some of his other paintings online and, when I saw her blog header, I thought it looked similar in style to the other paintings I had seen.

When I found the blog where I'd originally seen the Bonnard works, I realized that one of them was the very piece my blogger friend had on her blog. But I did not realize it until I looked carefully, since her blog had only a snippet of the art. So, while my powers of observation apparently are sufficient to have enabled me to see the connection between art I had seen and the art on her blog, they are not sufficient to have caused me to realize that I had actually been looking at the very same painting and did not know it.

That caused me think about how "eye-witness" testimony is becoming increasingly suspect in criminal trials. In a quick search of Google, I found literally hundreds of articles, books, and investigative reports that argue that eye-witness testimony is highly fallible (e.g., The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony, Eyewitness Testimony, The Magic of the Mind, Eyewitness: How Accurate Is Visual Memory?, and Eyewitness Testimony on Trial.

While my memory of Bonnard's style of painting was sufficient to allow me to correctly (and wildly) guess that the art on my friend's blog was his, I didn't realize I'd seen the very same piece of art she used. If anyone had asked me whether I had seen that piece of art before, I would have said I had not.

Based purely on my own experience, I am even more skeptical of the reliability of eye-witness testimony. And that leaves me where? I don't know. Hell, it's only 6:15 am, how can I be expected to have logical thoughts at this hour? Leave me alone until I'm more awake and coherent.


KathyR said...

I put the whole picture up after you guessed.

When I was in law school, our Criminal Procedure professor, with the help of two students, staged for our class the pulling over and search of a suspect's car (two chairs and a cardboard box). When people in the class were asked to say whether it was a legal stop and then whether it was a legal search, nearly everyone had a slightly different version of the sequence of events and what was said by the actor/students. Eye-opening.

Kathi D said...

Are you going to believe ME or your lying eyes?