False Memories of Committing Crime Theory

Shaw & Porter (2015) investigates the theory that full episodic false memories of committing crime can be generated in controlled experimental settings. The study found that in the “context of a highly suggestive interview, people can quite readily generate rich false memories of committing crime” (p. 291). Furthermore, the study explores how prevalent these false memories would be and how their features would compare to true memories. The study hypothesizes that participants will provide an account of the true event but will be unable to provide an account of the false event during the interview. For methodology, undergraduate students at a Canadian university were recruited in the study. The study convinces participants that they had committed a crime when they were between the ages of 11 and 14. Also, participants were asked about both the true and the false memory in each of their three interviews. Caregivers had to report in some detail at least one highly emotional event. Participants in the criminal condition were told that they had committed a crime resulting in police contact. Then, they were asked to explain what happened during the event. The study recorded how surprised they were that one of their memories was false, and how suspicious of the interviewer they had been. The results of the study showed that participants who were classified as having false memories tried to recall and visualize the false event at their homes. Criminal and noncriminal conditions led participants to present more visual sensory components. This is an instance of association. Also, participants reported more details about the events for true memories. They were found to be more likely to report adopting multiple perspectives in the true memory than in the false memory. This shows an instance of dissociation. Overall, the study concluded that exposure to misinformation provided by interviewers can lead to major distortion in memory. An example of a mental process is when participants visualized false and true events. An example of mental representation is when participants described their emotions when they remembered the event.  

Work Cited

Shaw, J., & Porter, S. (2013). Constructing Rich False Memories of Committing Crime. PsycEXTRA Dataset. doi: 10.1037/e571212013-048

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