False Memory in Children: Data, Theory, and Legal Implications


False memory is an area of intense research interest for both theoretical and practical reasons. From a theoretical perspective, false memories have been the subject of hot debates about the nature of human memory and a focal point for old and new memory theories. From a practical perspective, false memories are a threat to the validity of eyewitness testimony, a misleading source of autobiographical information in psychotherapy, and a biased representation of lessons taught in educational settings. True memories represent events as they really happened, whereas false memories shade, distort, or entirely misrepresent what really happened. False memories may sometimes seem to be only subtly different from strictly accurate reports of experienced events, as when witnesses misremember true inferences about events as though the inferences were directly experienced. Such false memories, which are often confidently reported as directly witnessed, are ubiquitous in everyday life. However, the distinction between inference and experience is crucial in many real-world contexts, especially in legal settings (Reyna & Brainerd, 1998). Eyewitnesses are not called upon to report their theories of events, but, rather, what they actually remember experiencing. Although some inferences turn out to be consistent with the facts, others are based on prejudice, ignorance, and unfounded suppositions (Nisbett & Ross, 1980). Thus, justice requires that we minimize the influence of false memories in legal proceedings at every stage in which children are interviewed, from the crime scene to the courtroom In this chapter we review evidence concerning false memories of multiple types in children, whose perceived competence as witnesses has shifted dramatically in the last 20 years. The general question that concerns us is whether children’s memory is essentially

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@inproceedings{Reyna2006FalseMI, title={False Memory in Children: Data, Theory, and Legal Implications}, author={Valerie F. Reyna and Britain A. Mills and Steven M Estrada and Charles J. Brainerd}, year={2006} }