The ‘common sense’ memory belief system and its implications

Shazia Akhtar, Lucy Justice, Lauren Knott, Fraenze Kibowski, Martin A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
32 Downloads (Pure)


Memory experts, the police and the public completed a memory questionnaire containing aseries of statements about autobiographical memory. The statements covered issues such asthe nature of memory, determinants of accuracy and the relation of emotion and trauma tomemory, and respondents indicated their agreement/disagreement with each of the statements. The police and public were found to share a ‘common sense’ memory belief system(CSMBS) in which memories were like videos/photographs, and accuracy was determined bythe number of details recalled and also by their vividness. In direct contrast, the scientificmemory belief system, held by memory researchers, largely based on scientific evidence, wasthe opposite of the CSMBS and memories were judged to be fragmentary, number of detailsand their nature did not predict accuracy, and memories and their details could be in error andeven false. The problematic nature of the CSMBS, which is pervasive in society, in raising theprobability of flawed judgments of memory evidence is considered and, by way of illustration,applied to the (very high) attrition rate in complaints of rape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-304
Number of pages15
JournalThe International Journal of Evidence and proof
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


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