Simulating amnesia and memories of a mock crime

K.I.M. van Oorsouw*, H.L.G.J. Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Defendants often feign (i.e. simulate) dissociative amnesia for their crimes. The Symptom Validity Test (SVT) may be used to detect such feigning. Some studies have shown that feigning amnesia for a mock crime has memory-undermining effects. In this study, we wanted to replicate the memory-undermining effects of simulated amnesia. We also examined whether such effects would occur when participants' memories were evaluated with a SVT. Thirty participants committed a mock crime and then simulated amnesia for it. During a follow-up test, participants were instructed to perform as well as they could on a free recall test and a SVT. Their memory performance was compared with that of a control group (n =30). Although only a minority of simulating participants (7%) was detected by our SVT, the memory-undermining effect of simulating amnesia appeared to be a robust phenomenon. That is, ex-simulators displayed poorer free recall, more commission errors, and lower SVT scores relative to memory performance of honestly responding controls. However, at follow-up testing the poor memory of ex-simulators did not take the form of a real amnesia (i.e. random performance on SVT).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-271
JournalPsychology Crime & Law
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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