In an innovative and illuminating study, Dr Julia Shaw and Stephen Porter demonstrate how rich false memories of committing crimes can be generated by introducing incorrect details and utilizing suggestive memory techniques.
Memory researchers long have speculated that certain tactics may lead people to recall crimes that never occurred, and thus could potentially lead to false confessions. This is the first study to provide evidence suggesting that full episodic false memories of committing crime can be generated in a controlled experimental setting. With suggestive memory-retrieval techniques, participants were induced to generate criminal and noncriminal emotional false memories, and we compared these false memories with true memories of emotional events.
70% of participants developed false memories of previously committing a variety of crimes which were supposed to have led to police contact. The findings of this study suggest that poor police and therapeutic interviewing techniques can lead to miscarriages of justice and false memories. Dr Shaw was a keynote speaker at the BFMS Annual General Meeting in April 2015.