The 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.
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.