Youth Services Law

More Research about False Memories

BrainResearchers recently found it surprisingly easy to convince a group of adults that they had committed crimes in early adolescence.  The study, recently published in Psychological Science,  had interviewers use suggestive memory-retrieval techniques when questioning the study subjects.  After three interviews, 70% of the people had false memories of having committed crimes.  Their reports actually had "all the same kinds of complex details as real memories," according to the lead researcher.

This study had a small sample size, but is is a fascinating addition to the research on this topic.  The forensic interviewing community has known about the importance of neutral questions when interviewing children, but there have been few studies suggesting the same precautions when interviewing adults.  If subsequent studies replicate these findings, and if investigators can plant inaccurate memories in the minds of innocent people, then we will need to change all sorts of interviewing protocols.  At the very least, attorneys now have another means of challenging interviews that produce confessions.

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