Does feigning amnesia impair subsequent recall?

  • Sun X
  • Punjabi P
  • Greenberg L
 et al. 
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Abstract

Defendants who are accused of serious crimes sometimes feign amnesia to evade criminal responsibility. Previous research has suggested that feigning amnesia might impair subsequent recall. In two experiments, participants read and heard a story about a central character, described as "you," who was responsible for the death of either a puppy (Experiment 1) or a friend (Experiment 2). On free and cued recall tests immediately after the story, participants who had feigned amnesia recalled less than did participants who had recalled accurately. One week later, when all participants recalled accurately, participants who had previously feigned amnesia still performed worse than did participants who had recalled accurately both times. However, the participants who had formerly feigned amnesia did not perform worse than did a control group who had received only the delayed recall tests. Our results suggest that a "feigned amnesia effect" may reflect nothing more than differential practice at recall. Feigning amnesia for a crime need not impair memory for that crime when a person later seeks to remember accurately.

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Authors

  • Xue Sun

  • Paawan V. Punjabi

  • Lucy T. Greenberg

  • John G. Seamon

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