Can you nonbelieve it: What happens when you do not believe in your memories?

There are reasons to believe that belief in the occurrence of an event also plays a part in eyewitness testimony. Memory researchers have often failed to distinguish between memory and belief (Scoboria et al., 2004). Can witnesses discriminate between their memories and the beliefs for the occurrence of their recollections? If eyewitnesses are educated with the distinction between memory and belief, will it lower misidentification rate?  

Research on nonbelieved memories may shed light on how witnesses’ reports may be altered under certain circumstances. For instance, information from one witness could be indirectly passed to another witness through a third party, such as a police officer, who informs the witness about what another witness had said (Luus & Wells, 1994). When the information provided by the police officer contradicts with the witness’s memory, the witness may undermine his belief in his memory and choose to not report certain details. What we need is research on this type of dynamic; how social feedback leads to nonbelieved memories and further influences behavioural output in the legal area.

To conclude, a novel line of research has emerged showing that recollection and belief are distinct constructs sometimes ending up in the creation of nonbelieved memories. Nonbelieved memories have been considered to be a rare and exceptional phenomenon, but this review shows that they can easily be elicited in an experimental setting. The next step is to examine how nonbelieved memories affect our behaviour and whether our belief, recollection, or both determine the way we behave and act. This line of study has important implications for law, therapy and much else.


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