The Rashomon Effect in Testimony

It is not simply that we forget but also that we repress and embellish as it suits our needs:

The political scientist Graham Allison claimed to have used Rashomon as a starting point for his magnum opus, Essence of Decision, in which he told the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis from three different theoretical viewpoints (and, as a result, the Crisis is described and explained in three entirely different ways).

The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially different but equally plausible accounts of it. A useful demonstration of this principle in scientific understanding can be found in an article by that name authored by Karl G. Heider.[1]
It is named for Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon, in which a crime witnessed by four individuals is described in four mutually contradictory ways.

Karl G. Heider (March 1988). “The Rashomon Effect: When Ethnographers Disagree”. American Anthropologist 90 (1): 73–81.


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