Members in the Media
From: New York Magazine

It’s Crazy How Easy It Is to Make People Falsely Remember Committing a Crime

New York Magazine:

Memory’s a pretty fluid and complex thing. We don’t always remember specific details of an event well, and what details we do remember can be influenced by stuff that happened after the event itself. This is all pretty standard when it comes to memory research. What the authors of a new paper in Psychological Science just pulled off, though, takes things to a whole new level: They were able to convince study participants they had committed a crime that was completely fabricated.

Julia Shaw and Stephen Porter of the universities of Bedfordshire and British Columbia, respectively, got permission from a group of Canadian undergraduates to send surveys to their primary caregivers in which the caregivers were asked to provide details of negative, emotionally charged events (animal attacks, losing money, and other stuff like that) the students had experienced when they were younger. 

Then, with these details in their hands, the researchers interviewed the students three times, with each interview lasting for about 40 minutes. Some were asked to remember things that had actually happened to them — the animal attack or whatever — while others were asked to remember details of a crime they hadn’t actually committed.

Read the whole story: New York Magazine

More of our Members in the Media >


In Finland, a tiny Northern European country next door to Russia, we have a high profile murder case that happened eight years ago. Two years after the murder the local police turned their focus solely on the wife as a suspect.

The police managed to get a false confession from her. They lied to her and her 11 year old daughter (who had also seen the murderer in their home).

The police presented as a fact that there hadn’t been any outsider in their home and therefore the wife had killed the husband. She believed this lie, plus the lie that her daughter had also said so to the police.

The wife’s reply to the police was that in the light of the evidence presented to her, she must have done it, even though she cannot remember it. She was convicted for the murder, and later released by the Appeals Court.

A few months later she got arrested again, this time accused of Satanist rituals, killing and torturing animals and sexually abusing her own children. Her traumatised youngest three children had started telling horror stories about their mother to their uncle and his wife, who were receiving 9000 euros/month to look after them.

She is back in prison, because the courts believed a doctor/gynecologist that testified that she cannot rule out the possibility of a crime taken place, even though all three daughters were virgins, and had their hymens intact. According to her testimony the hymens grow back.

This same doctor also examined the children’s skin with UV-light, and she found proof of Satanism in the form of unexplained “scars” that form crosses upside down. These “scars” cannot be detected by the naked eye, therefore no one else has never seen them.

There is more about this crazy story in a blog:

Anneli Auer is in prison waiting for the second Appeals Court ruling in the murder case. If it acquits her again, then there might be some hope to get the 7,5 year sexcrime sentence overturned.

APS regularly opens certain online articles for discussion on our website. Effective February 2021, you must be a logged-in APS member to post comments. By posting a comment, you agree to our Community Guidelines and the display of your profile information, including your name and affiliation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations present in article comments are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of APS or the article’s author. For more information, please see our Community Guidelines.

Please login with your APS account to comment.