New Research Finds That Interrogation Tactics Can Rewrite Memory

Spotless Mind: Interrogation Tactics Can Rewrite Memory


Never forget a face? Chances are you would forget your torturer's. Or, depending on your definition, intense interrogator's.

Data from a mock interrogation study, performed by the US military, shows that 85 percent of soldiers not only identified the wrong man as their interrogator but chose someone who wasn't involved at all. And, they were asked only hours after the questions (and, possibly, physically demanding tasks and light violence) ended.

The finding supports the theory that human memory is unreliable (witnesses in Buffalo said the plane nose-dived when we now know it landed flat) and highly susceptible to suggestion, particularly when presented with misinformation or leading questions. It not only calls into question interrogation techniques but also the entire eyewitness method our legal system is based on.

Psychologists at University of California Irvine believe they are close to discovering the recipe for creating false memories. Good news for smart people, though! The lead psychologist there said that while all are susceptible to memory manipulation, smarter people have an easier time resisting it.

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