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Abstract

This paper reviews the literature on the role of ‘memory distrust’ in cases of internalised false confessions and provides a heuristic model for understanding the antecedents and mechanism involved. It also provides an in-depth analysis of two real life cases of ‘suspected’ murders involving six convicted persons, five of whom showed evidence of profound memory distrust regarding the alleged offences. The key factors were coercive interviewing, lengthy solitary confinement, contamination, psychological vulnerabilities (both state and trait) and lack of independent support during questioning. The vulnerabilities in such cases typically involve a combination of cognitive (memory flaws, lack of confidence in memory and failure to invoke distinctiveness heuristic), personality (suggestibility and compliance), health problems and motivational (desire and willingness to assist the police) factors. The two cases suggest that the process of internalised false confessions may be conceptualised in terms of five sequential steps: a trigger, plausibility, acceptance, reconstruction and resolution. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.