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When children are the least vulnerable to false memories: a true report or a case of autosuggestion?

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In this case report, a legal case revolving around the reliability of statements given by a 6-year-old girl is described. She claimed to have witnessed her mother being murdered by her father. Two psychological experts provided diametrically opposed opinions about the reliability of her statements. One expert, a clinician, opined that the girl's statements were based on autosuggestion whereas the other expert, a memory researcher, stated that autosuggestion was unlikely to have played a role. This case and the analysis of the experts' opinions illustrate what may happen when experts in court are unaware of the recent literature on (false) memory. That is, recent studies show that autosuggestion is less likely to occur in young children than in older children and adults. The current case stresses the importance and implications of relying on memory experts in cases concerning the reliability of eyewitness statements.

    Research areas

  • forensic science, eyewitness memory, children's testimony, expert witnesses, developmental reversal, false memory, memory, SEXUAL-ABUSE, DEVELOPMENTAL REVERSALS, REPEATED INTERVIEWS, AGE-DIFFERENCES, ACCURACY, SUGGESTIBILITY, TESTIMONY, IMMEDIATE, ADULTS
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S271-S275
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue numberS1
Early online date7 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016