When we watch slo-mo, we tend to think people are bigger assholes than they really are …
It's common to be in a situation where a particular determination can only be made by reviewing the tapes. It happens all the time in football, hockey and other sports where real time action is so fast and so intense that poor judgments are made. To that end, watching slow motion helps (or hinders, depending on what team you're going for.) Fuckin' refs!
But what about when recordings end up in a courtroom and a jury is forced to watch, say, a driver plowing into a group of grandmothers playing bridge at a coffee shop? Researchers of a recently published paper titled Slow motion increases perceived intent believe that bias of fault can be thrown into the shitter by warping actual time on playback.
Slo-mo messes with our heads, and not in a good way.
"We demonstrate that slow motion replay can systematically increase judgments of intent because it gives viewers the false impression that the actor had more time to premeditate before acting," says the paper's authors. "In legal proceedings, these judgments of intent can mean the difference between life and death. Thus, any benefits of video replay should be weighed against its potentially biasing effects."
To come to this, researchers created experiments that had people watch videos of things that could possibly come up in courtroom settings or other contested events: robberies, football hits. They then played back the videos at multiple speeds, paying close attention to how that affected any conclusions made by those watching.
Turns out, when people view things with the actual time drastically slowed, they perceive the subjects in the video to also have that much time to make decisions one way or another — even though they conciously know better. So if a car careens into a few grandmas on the sidewalk, it's possible a jury could think the driver premeditated "the attack" even if that wasn't the case at all. Split decisions are made all the time and most of them are recorded now in some form or another, the more we understand the bias that comes with warping time, the more lawyers and judges can evaluate fairness in a trial (or whether or not Richard Sherman is in fact the dirtiest player in the NFL, or if he's just a misunderstood Boy Scout because of the slo-mo.)
The implications are concerning, if not outright frightening. It mimics the same "home run" evidence now being overturned by DNA evidence that put hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people behind bars. Eyewitness accounts are now known to be grossly ineffective, even though it was the cornerstone of prosecution for many decades. Understanding how viewing video works on the brain moving forward is a balancing step to providing fair trials in the future, seeing as how most court cases will have video evidence to either back up an account or dispute it going forward. THANKS CIA!
Long story short, don't run into grandmothers on the side of the road and never follow your dreams of being an NFL cornerback. You'll be fine.
[Cover Photo: The Slow Mo Guys]