Account for camera perspective bias | Holland & Hart – Persuasion Strategies

Eight people died at a music festival in Houston last Friday, crushed by a crowd as the music continued and security was unable to help. As the tragedy heads to litigation, it’s likely that this will be another case where there is a galore of videos, with dozens or maybe hundreds of clips, each showing their own point of view. During the trial last spring of Derek Chauvin, the officer found responsible for the murder of George Floyd, I was asked to do a media interview on this unique factor in the trial. In Chauvin’s case, there were several security camera and witness recordings, and jurors were exposed to a variety of points of view, each carrying their own lens, angle and framing of the incident. The question for me, according to the interviewer, was how important these different perspectives would be to jurors and if there is any “perspective bias” that might attach to a given video.

It’s an interesting question, and I did the interview. But as reporters tend to do, they only used one line from me, and that was on a different topic. However, in cleaning up a few old notes over the weekend, I found my preparation for this interview, and it occurs to me that these thoughts might be useful to share. Perspective bias isn’t just important for jurors, but really for anyone who uses cameras to communicate. These days, with the persistence of remote meetings, that means just about everyone. So here are my general thoughts based on the questions I received from the interviewer.

What is camera perspective bias?

The camera creates the illusion that we see things in a neutral way, as they are. But the angle and selectivity of the camera highlights some things more than others.

What effect do angle and lighting have on perception?

Here are some examples of the perspective effect. We know that looking at someone at the top indicates that they have authority and control over us, and looking at the bottom indicates the opposite. An aerial view (sometimes referred to as “God’s eye view”) creates feelings of greater predictability and control. For example, a car accident reconstruction done in this way will seem more controllable and preventable (Fessel & Roese, 2011). Images from police body cameras also tend to reduce the assigned intent, as they omit the camera agent (Turner, Caruso, Dilich & Roese, 2019).

Why is camera perspective bias important? Who does it affect, and how and why?

This is important because, like all prejudices, it can influence our perceptions without our knowing it. When prosecutors, jurors, and the public watch a video, it feels like it is showing us all what needs to be seen. Viewing the scene from multiple angles (as happened in the Chauvin trial), or viewing in a way that takes into account the effects of perspective, can help correct this bias by increasing awareness of these influences.

How could two people look at the same thing and see something totally different?

Because we all have brains that by design act to filter our experiences. Seeing what we are ready to see, or what we are waiting or hoping to see, can color not only the perception, but also the interpretation we give to that perception.

What research has been done on camera perspective bias with regard to witness testimony or video recording?

There has been relatively little research on this, and now that we are in the “zoom age” we need more. But there is research. For example, one study (Dominic, Jarman & Lytle, 2015) found no difference in whether a witness was looking at the camera or watching a lawyer sitting near a camera.

In practice, however, we know that a well-lit, well-framed, comfortable and confident witness will come across as more believable and likeable than a witness filmed in poor conditions. Although research is needed to explain the precise parameters of this, I think we can be confident that this basic experience will be confirmed by the study.

What is the key thing we need to remember or know when it comes to videotaped eyewitness accounts? For example, doesn’t the video show everything? Need more proof, Or Isn’t the video sufficient?

Video is part of the bigger picture and in some cases a very important part. But like any other type of evidence, it helps investigators and the public to be critical consumers of information. Consider your point of view and ask yourself if there is an incompleteness or bias in that perspective.


Dominic, C., Jarman, JW and Lytle, JM (2015). Does the angle of the filing video camera affect the credibility of the witness. Jury expert, 27, 7.

Fessel, F., & Roese, NJ (2011). Retrospective bias, visual aids and legal decision making: timing is everything. Social psychology and personality compass, 5(4), 180-193.

Turner, BL, Caruso, EM, Dilich, MA, & Roese, NJ (2019). Body camera images lead to weaker intention judgments than dash camera images. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(4), 1201-1206.

Image credit:, used under license

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