Feigning amnesia undermines memory for a mock crime



Using scripts, previous studies by Christianson and co-workers have suggested that simulating amnesia undermines memory. Relying on a more realistic mock crime paradigm, the current study examined whether feigning amnesia has memory-undermining effects. After committing a mock crime, one group of participants (n = 21) was instructed to simulate amnesia for the event. Their performance on immediate free recall tests was compared to that of participants (n = 20) who were instructed to respond honestly during free recall. After one week, simulators, honestly responding controls, and a second control group (n = 20) that had not undergone immediate memory testing after the pertinent event completed free recall tests. This time, all participants were instructed to perform as well as they could.

At the follow-up free recall test, both ex-simulators and controls who underwent the memory testing for the first time performed significantly worse than the honestly responding controls. Thus, the current study supports the idea that simulating amnesia in order to evade responsibility for a crime has detrimental effects on true memory of the crime. Our results also suggest that this effect can best be understood in terms of lack of rehearsal. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.