British Psychological Society guidelines on memory

witnessappealThe British Psychological Society has published guidelines on “latest evidence on human memory and how that evidence could be of use to the legal professions”. It’s a very handy overview prepared by experts in the field.

As the principal authors Martin A. Conway and Emily A. Holmes explain in the introduction to the report:

The guidelines and key points should then be taken as they are intended – as guidelines and not absolute statements. Because they are based on widely agreed and acknowledged scientific findings they provide a far more rigorously informed understanding of human memory than that available from commonly held beliefs. In this respect they give courts a much firmer basis for accurate decision-making.

According to the press release (11 July):

The report has some sobering key points on the reliability of people’s memories in court cases. Key points of ‘Memory and Law’ include:

  • The content of memories arises from an individual’s comprehension of an experience, both conscious and non-conscious. This content can be further modified and changed by subsequent recall
  • Any account of a memory will feature forgotten details and gaps
  • People can remember events that they have not in reality experienced

You can find out more about the research and download the full report via the BPS website here.

Photo credit: Martin Deutsch, Creative Commons License

4 thoughts on “British Psychological Society guidelines on memory”

  1. Thanks for your work.
    This is a highly relevant find for me and my colleagues. We constantly have these issues in sexual assault cases which are “politically” and emotionally charged.
    Because these cases are politically charged (the military authorities are constantly badgered about being soft on sexual assault crimes in the military), the authorities often neglect, avoid, or demean, fair handed and dispassionate investigations. Prosecutors (usually uninformed on these issues) reject questions about the case. Confirmation bias at it’s worst. Anyway, thanks.

  2. Glad you found it useful Phil. In my opinion, this is exactly the sort of thing that academics should be doing – examining and evaluating the research and then making it relevant and accessible to practitioners. Well done the BPS.

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