Kyle Ferris’s interest in the validity of eyewitness testimony is taking him to Scotland.

The St. Thomas graduate recently accepted an offer to attend the University of Aberdeen where he will be studying the neurology of memory.

This research ties in well with work Ferris, of Grand Lake, NB, completed with STU’s Dr. Ian Fraser on eye witness memory variables. During his undergraduate degree, Ferris worked with police cadets and found their knowledge of eye witness variables was low. He conducted the same study with judges and again found the results were similar.

“The science of psychology tells us we aren’t great at perceiving events and remembering them,” he said. “Recalling an event like an accident or a crime is difficult and oftentimes you get erroneous eyewitness testimonies or confessions. Not because they’re lying, but because they actually can’t remember what happened.”

Three of Ferris’s articles on the topic were published—“Assessing the perceptions of police officers concerning the number of exonerations in which eye witness error was a factor” was published in the Journal of Behavior and Social Sciences; “Eyewitness Testimony: Assessing the knowledge and beliefs of students studying policing” was included in the International Journal of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences; and “The knowledge and beliefs of students studying policing concerning the science behind the fallibility of eyewitness testimony” was printed in Blue Line Magazine, a Canadian police officers’ publication.

 “Being published will benefit me down the road, but knowing how well the research went and all the work that went into it has been a deeper satisfaction for me,” he said. “When you begin your undergrad you think research is twenty minutes spent on the internet. It’s not pulling things from other sources. It’s going out and finding something for yourself.”

Ferris is hopeful his research will help those in the judicial system realize the flaws that come with believing eye witness testimony and encourage them to trust the science of psychology.

“We would want a change in the justice system, but in all actuality it’s about trusting the science. There are several prominent cases in Canada where people have been put away for years and only afterward do we realize they weren’t guilty,” he said.

Discovering Psychology at STU

Ferris unexpectedly discovered his passion for Psychology after taking courses at STU.

“When you’re deep in the science of the mind is fascinating because it’s what makes us who we are. My interest in memory and perception looks at not only how we see the world but how we physically perceive it and what it means to us,” he said. “We exist in the confines of our own mind, and I think unpacking that is a worthy endeavor.”

Following the completion of his 12-month program at the University of Aberdeen, Ferris intends to continue researching internationally before returning home to Canada.