The fallacy of an airtight alibi

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When someone is suspected of criminal activity, one of the most important questions asked is whether they have a credible alibi. Playing past events in our minds, however, is not like playing a video recording. Memories of locations, dates and companions can be confused with the passage of time. If the memories of a suspect are offline with the documented facts, a plausible alibi once can crumble and can be seen as proof of guilt.

To test people’s memories of the past Parador, a team of researchers tracked the location of 51 volunteers for a month and found that their memories were wrong about 36% of the time.

“This is the first study to examine the memory through which an event took place,” said Simon J. Dennis, director of the Human Data Hub Complex at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Psychological Sciences and lead author of the study. which was published in the journal Psychological sciences. “We were able to use methods of sampling experiences to really examine people’s memories and analyze what is affecting memory error in their daily lives.”

In the study, an application to participants ’smartphones continuously (and securely) recorded their locations and environments using GPS. The app also made sound recordings of the environment every 10 minutes. Participants were free to turn off the app or delete events, a mechanism designed to protect privacy.

At the end of the month, participants received a memory test in which they were given a time and date and then asked to select one of the four markers on Google Maps to show where they had been at the time.

The results revealed that participants tend to confuse days and weeks. They also often confuse weeks in general and hours between days. Participants had the poorest memory when memories of an event intertwine with memories of a similar experience, such as filling a gasoline car in a different place of the same gas station chain.

In addition, the researchers found that people tended to confuse places they had visited at similar times or places, such as several bars visited in one night. People also made mistakes, albeit less frequently, when events involved similar sounds or movement patterns, such as when they had walked around the city on different days while listening to their favorite music.

“This has implications for the generation of alibis, as jurors tend to assume that a suspect who is wrong is lying,” Dennis said. “These results may alert researchers to the questions they should ask in order to detect the mistakes that suspects are likely to make “.


Plant false memories in people’s minds and then erase them


More information:
Elizabeth Laliberte et al, The fallacy of an airtight alibi: understanding human memory for “Where” using the sampling of experience, Psychological sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1177 / 0956797620980752

Citation: Failed memories of our past whereabouts: The fallacy of an airtight alibi (2021, July 7) retrieved July 7, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-faulty-memories- whereabouts-fallacy-airtight.html

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