, Volume 9, Issue 4, pp 271-294

Can animations be safely used in court?

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Abstract

As courts become increasingly technologically sophisticated, it can be expected that the use of the latest visualisation techniques will also increase to make the most of this technology. In particular, the use of computer-generated animations can be expected to become more dominant. There is, however, very little research into the effects of animated evidence on jurors and other members of the judicial process. This paper investigates whether there is a difference in the quality and robustness of memories formed by either hearing an oral testimony or seeing an animated version of it. Also, the paper investigates whether different opinions and attitudes are produced when testimony is presented as an animation as opposed to being verbally presented. Preliminary results reported here indicate that there is indeed a difference in attitude (and therefore potential bias) when animations are used instead of verbal testimony, but that this difference is only apparent in the long term (four weeks or more after the presentation of the animated evidence). The results point to the need for improved knowledge structures for mapping verbal testimony into animations, where issues of implicit knowledge and potential bias are explicitly referenced in the knowledge structure. The paper argues that, until and unless such issues are addressed, it is not safe to use animations in court except to present purely factual information.