principles of memory

The Top Ten Principles of Memory that Every Interviewer Should Know

The Top Ten Principles of Memory that Every Interviewer Should Know

Despite decades of international research on memory in hundreds of thousands of experimental studies, few invariant principles of memory operations have been isolated for use by investigative interviewing practitioners.

Speaking at the MyKludo conference on Investigative Interviewing, Jane Goodman-Delahunty,  Professor of Forensic and Legal Psychology at Charles Sturt University and a Member of the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal presented the top ten principles of memory that every investigative interviewer should know. Jane Goodman-Delahunty’s  empirical legal studies help to foster evidence-based decisions to promote social procedural and distributive justice.  Her research has been funded by the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Australian Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the Australian Research Council.

The session gave overview of different types of memory systems and processes with a major focus on 10 key functions or principles of memory:

1. the cue-driven nature of memory,

2. what really causes forgetting,

3. question types that cause and reduce cue overload,

4. what makes a memory distinctive,

5.  why it is so challenging for people to recall recurring events;

6. how memory is impacted by circumstances at the time of an event that interact with those at the time of the interview;

7. how people use available information to generate coherent accounts,

8. the strengths of episodic versus generic, semantic memory;

9. why greater specificity leads to memory vulnerabilities;

10. what makes people susceptible to suggestion.

Professor Delahunty explored how these ten principles can be applied in interviews to promote more accurate remembering and fewer false accounts.  Understanding of these memory functions will shed light on memory performance across the lifespan so that investigators know what to expect regarding gaps in people’s recall of childhood memories, the reminiscence bump in adolescence and early adulthood, and distinctive features of memory processes in older witnesses.  This presentation also covered findings on common misperceptions and erroneous beliefs about memory endorsed by police and lay people versus scientifically grounded views of memory.

Jane Goodman-Delahunty is one of the top researchers in the Legal Forensic arena, her recent books include “Understanding sexual harassment: Evidence-based forensic practice (American Psychological Association, in press), “Trends in legal advocacy: Interviews with prosecutors and criminal defence lawyers across the globe” (CRC Press, 2017), and “Juries, science and popular culture in the age of terror” (Palgrave, 2017).

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