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Dealing with False Memories in Children and Adults: Recommendations for the Legal Arena

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5747-5571, Muris, P. & Merkelbach, H. (2019). Dealing with False Memories in Children and Adults: Recommendations for the Legal Arena. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, doi: 10.1177/2372732218818584


Children are often viewed as poor eyewitnesses. Fact-finders, lawyers, and researchers assume that children are exceptionally prone to accept external suggestive (leading) questions and to create false memories. Is this assumption justified? This review will show it is not. First, studies on spontaneous false memories— elicited without any suggestive pressure—reveal that children are less likely than adults to produce them. Second, under certain circumstances, children are even less prone to accept external suggestions than adults. This counterintuitive finding happens when false suggestions contain information that is associatively related but in actuality not experienced by children or adults. Using empirically-based interview protocols can maximize the retrieval of accurate memories in children and adults. Furthermore, expert witnesses should use alternative scenarios in order to better evaluate whether statements by children or adults are based on truth or fiction.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: ©2018, the authors.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
K Law
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
[thumbnail of Otgaar-Howe et al PIBBS 2019.pdf]
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