False memories often lead to confession of the innocent

False memories often lead to confession of the innocent

Psychological approach essential to solve crime

Pranoti Gupta

Reading an article in Reader’s Digest recently on false memories created in an innocent teenager who confessed to a crime that he did not commit, made me wonder and question as to whether we really trust our memory or the eyewitnesses to judge in serious criminal cases?

We need a more serene psychological approach.

This phenomenon and the shocking revelations have serious implications on the criminal justice system.

Teenager’s trauma

The 18 year old boy sat in the interrogation room and after 25 hours of questioning confirmed that he had brutally murdered his mother during an argument.

He picked up a razor and slashed her throat.

Based on his confession, the Jury pronounced him guilty and presiding Judge sentenced him to prison term of up to 16 years.

The only problem was he was innocent.

The teenager’s memory of his mother’s murder was false.

By claiming that he had failed the Polygraph test and that mental illness had caused him to blackout the crime, the interrogators convinced this quiet, shy, good natured boy that he must have been the killer of his mom whom he loved dearly.

Memory Illusion

London Southbank University Criminal Psychologist and author of ‘The Memory Illusion,’ conducted a research to show how and why our brains form the complex false memories.

She said that it is a far common phenomenon than we think.

Our brains are unable to distinguish between imagination and experiences very well, making it difficult to separate fact and fiction, at times leading to ‘memory conformity.’

Details of accounts of others’ memories are implanted or lead us to accept other’s experiences as our own.

If the eyewitness’ version changes through discussions or remembering the sequence, their reliability is easily compromised.

Research has shown emotional and traumatic experiences are more vulnerable to fabrication. Dr Shaw claims she can be the ‘memory hacker’ and implant false memories of committing a crime in 70% of the people or events that never took place.

Parallel realities

Fiona Broome, a Florida (US) based paranormal consultant said that we are all sliding between parallel realities with some glitches.

There could be multiple universes existing simultaneously.

Where is our future generation going? Are we as adults, parents, mentors, teachers uplifting them with the right morals? Are we using the innovations and research for constructive purposes?

Suicides in New Zealand

A new report by UNICEF contains shocking statistics on New Zealand.

The country has by far the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world.

A shock but no surprise – it is not the first time that the country has topped table.

The UNICEF report found New Zealand’s youth suicide rate (teenagers between 15 and 19 years of age) to be the highest of a long list of 41 OECD and EU countries.

The rate of 15.6 suicides per 100,000 people is twice as high as the US rate and almost five times that of Britain.

The prime causes

Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive (From Website)

Dr Prudence Stone of UNICEF New Zealand said that the high suicide could be connected to child poverty, high rates of teenage pregnancies or families where neither parent works.

“New Zealand also has one of the world’s worst records of bullying in school,” Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive Shaun Robinson, who himself suffers from bipolar disease, said.

According to him, there is a ‘toxic mix’ of very high rates of family violence, child abuse and child poverty that should be addressed to tackle the problem.

Think of New Zealand and you will instantly think of nature’s beauty, fjords, mountains and magnificent landscapes, vast, endless oceans.

Demons of emotions

However, the country has struggled for years with another form of isolation- depression and suicide. Hardly do we realise the feelings and demons of anger, jealousy, frustration and resentment represent fears we are experiencing in life. We always have a choice of choosing love within and conquer our fears.

Today; in order to ‘fit in,’ youth are forced to mature too fast and lose their innocence.

Can we bring a change in the society by contributing our values of kindness, honesty, love, inspiration, empathy and generosity and eradicate violence and harassment?

Can we build a nation on spiritual growth and evolution, developing Emotional Quotient along with Intelligence Quotient and choose humanity over religion? Create equal opportunities for everyone rather than rush for the dogmatic status quo world we live in today?

Together we can make a difference, if we make it a moral responsibility and pick up our share of the burden to build a balanced community.

Pranoti Gupta is a Refugees’ teacher based in Auckland with more than 23 years of teaching experience in India and New Zealand. A mother of two teenagers, she has faced serious health challenges and adverse circumstances with courage and determination. (Picture from LinkedIn).

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Shaun Robinson, Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive (From Website)


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