Developmental Reversals Show in False Memory

A New Look at the Reliability of Children’s Evidence

Current Directions is Psychological Science

C. J. Brainerd, Cornell University, USA


Classic research that was initiated in response to heavy reliance on children’s evidence in certain types of criminal cases showed that the incidence of false memories declines steadily between childhood and young adulthood. This developmental decline pattern became the centerpiece of much expert testimony, and it has been treated as settled science in court rulings. It is not settled science.

A large number of studies have recently appeared on developmental reversals, an opposite pattern in which false memories for events that preserve the gist of experience increase dramatically between early childhood and young adulthood.

Developmental reversals challenge the forensic principle that children’s evidence is inherently more infected with false memories than adults’ evidence.

retrieved 09-30-13.

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