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Distinguishing truthful from invented accounts using reality monitoring criteria


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Amina Memon, School of Psychology, King's College, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 2UB, UK (e-mail:


Purpose. Previous research has suggested that true and invented memories can be distinguished between using the reality monitoring criteria. Two different coding schemes were used to examine the correct classification of reports as truthful or deceptive on the basis of individual reality-monitoring (RM) criteria.

Method. Drawing upon the RM framework the present experiment examined transcripts of verbal accounts of eyewitnesses to a staged event or made up details about the incident. The statements were elicited during a face-to-face cognitive interview (CI) and were analysed by coders trained in the identification of criteria indicative of self-experienced and invented accounts (referred to here as Version 1) and a similar coding method (referred to here as Version 2).

Results. A distinction was made between ‘external memories’ (affective, perceptual, and contextual details) and ‘internal’ memories (cognitive operations). For Version 1, the results indicated a higher number of contextual and external details in the descriptions of experienced events and as is commonly found in the deception literature, truthful accounts were longer. For Version 2, temporal and auditory details were more frequent in true accounts. Contrary to prediction, there were also more references to cognitive operations in true accounts.

Conclusions. Any forensic application of RM should consider how external factors (characteristics of the event, motivation to deceive, and questioning style) influence the presence of RM criteria.