Presented by Leandra Frye

“Memories”follows researchers’ study of memory over the past 20 years and how it can be manipulated, especially during recall of an event during an interrogation or interview:


1995: Suggestions and children’s memories (Leichtman & Ceci, 1995)

Leichtman and Ceci (1995) studied the way the memory can be manipulated in children. This study is especially relevant to the issues in forensic psychology that surround memories of an event. The fact that memories can be manipulated directly affects the information received from interviews. Leichtman and Ceci used children to test their hypothesis that suggestion and stereotypes can be used to alter memories. The children were visited by a man and then were interviewed afterward to see how much they remembered. The control group had no manipulation and just reported what they actually remembered. Another group of children were given stereotypes as to what to expect when the man came to visit. A third group of children were given information about misdeeds that the man committed that were erroneous. A fourth group of children were both told beforehand what to expect and given suggestions of erroneous misdeeds the man committed. The control group recalled the events correctly more than the other groups. The group of children who were given suggestions made a significant number of false reports in what they thought happened.


2002: The development of false memories

The issue of acquiescence in children is directly related to the study of false memories (Reyna, Holliday, & Marche, 2002). When children are interviewed, Reyna et. al propose that it is difficult to differentiate acquiescence (agreeing with the interviewer) and what they actually remember. The issue here is that the child may not have actually had a change in memory, but were influenced by the interviewer. The goal for interviewing children should be to avoid suggesting what may have happened to children.

2007: Theories surrounding false memories (Steffins & Mecklenbrauker, 2007).

How do memory illusions occur? Usually memory illusions occur after a long period of time has passed and the exact details of the event are lost. Even differences in how the person sees the event can change over a long period of time and discrepancies can exist between people who witnessed the same event. How is this related to forensic psychology?- Eyewitness testimonies can often be a key piece of evidence for prosecutors. Misleading information after the event can change what the eyewitness remembers. One issue is that it can be hard to determine whether a person has recovered a memory (repressed) or if there has been a false memory created. What can professionals do to avoid this? Professionals can attempt to avoid false memories by avoiding giving suggestions of events or asking those they interview to “imagine” how an event happened.

Leichtman, M. D., Ceci, S. J. (1995). The effects of stereotypes and suggestions on preschoolers’ reports. Developmental Psychology. 31(4), 568-587.

Reyna, V.F., Holliday, R., & Marche, T. (2002). Explaining the development of false memories. Developmental Review. 22(3). 436-489.

Steffens, M.C., Mecklenbrauker, S. (2007). False memories: phenomena, theories, and implications. Journal of Psychology. 215(1), 12-24.

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