Adults More Prone to 'false Memory'

ITHACA, N.Y., July 23 (UPI) — Adults are worse at remembering negative or stressful events than children are, a finding that could impact the criminal justice system, a study says.

The study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology contradicts current legal and psychological thinking on recall and memory, ScienceDaily.com reported Thursday.


Memory theories embraced by the legal system say adults remember negative events better than children and have fewer false memories about them when testifying in a court, ScienceDaily said.

But research at Cornell University found that while negative emotions are very bad for the accuracy of children’s memories, they are even worse for adults.

The findings could bring changes in attitudes about the reliability of children and adult witnesses testifying in trials, a researcher said.

“In the great preponderance of legal cases, the only evidence that’s determinative is what people say happened,” Cornell professor of human development Charles Brainerd said. “That’s it. So the question of the conditions under which your memory of events is distorted is the most fundamental question about the reliability of evidence — because it is most of the evidence.”

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