Table of Contents:

Concluding remarks

In forensic interview situations, the stakes associated with solving a crime can be very high. As a consequence, forensic investigators may push witnesses beyond their actual memories, encouraging and even coercing them to provide testimony about events they cannot remember or perhaps never witnessed. The research reviewed here shows that, over time, people are prone to developing false memories for events that were at one time mere speculation or even coerced fabrications, especially when these fabrications have been reinforced by confirmatory interview feedback or serve an explanatory function. We propose that people’s vulnerability to these false memory errors is related to the particular difficulty they have monitoring uncertainty. Although people remember many aspects of their experiences extraordinarily well, they are especially prone to forgetting the reasons why they were at one time unsure of the validity of their fabricated responses.

Notes

  • * This chapter originally appeared in the edited volume, False and Distorted Memories.
  • 1 We use the words “coercive,” “forced,” and “pressure” here, and indeed many of our subjects do strongly resist confabulating information. Nevertheless, as researchers we have an ethical duty to ensure that the kinds of interrogative pressure we aim to emulate do not cause our participants distress. We take considerable measures to avoid any such distress, and all of our study procedures have been approved by the relevant research ethics committees.

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