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Memory serves our lives a very vital purpose. It becomes the storehouse of our experiences, of our learning, of everything which comes to pass our day to day life. It is where we stash both good and bad experiences and it is a place where we run into at times when we need to remember something.
However, there are isolated instances when memory becomes a waterloo for many persons. There are cases in point when the precious memory becomes not so valuable anymore and may even contribute to a person’s downfall.
Memory is an ever complicated process and still, studies are being extensively conducted so as to understand the processes being involved with it. To our knowledge, memory involves processes which are similar to that of learning. There are these processes which we call encoding and retrieval. The former refers to the manner of impressing into our minds the memories which we have acquired while the former refers to the manner by which a person reclaims the memories which have been stored earlier in time.
Both processes are important because they work as conjoined courses of action which makes our memory and our mind useful to us. Logically, one does not serve its function without the other. However, the presence of both processes does not necessarily determine the sanity or stability of a person’s mind or ability to remember things correctly. There are these things which we call false memory and memory distortion wherein an event is believed by a person to have happened in his or her life due to some external corroboration. The influence of the external environment to the person leads this certain individual to believe things which actually haven’t happened and is just merely a product of his or her own imagination induced to them by the outside forces (Ofshe, 1992).
Ramifications on the Reliability of Court Witnesses
Because of this phenomenon which can happen to anyone, especially to those psychologically challenged or abused people, this certain syndrome has been identified to be detrimental to many aspects of the society not just in the micro perspective but even to the larger angle such as the court witnesses.
Several prominent cases have been recorded which have something to with false memory and memory distortion. The most common case related to this phenomenon is sexual abuse- wherein an individual would suddenly file charges against a person for sexual assaults which the complainer believe to have happened when actually it hasn’t happened when tried on courts and when based on evidences. In fact, in the last two decades, thousands have come out of their nutshells and started accusing every person in their blood line of sexual assault and incest (Loftus, 1996).
Because of this, there is a negative implication on the reliability of court witnesses or even complainants because their statements may have been induced to them and may have been a pure play of their imaginations. The justice system is therefore being jeopardized with this situation because it only proves that, in the absence of concrete evidences, they may try a certain individual and worse, convict him of a thing he didn’t actually do just because of an almost real situation narrated by the witness with false memory syndrome or memory distortion.
Implications on Therapy Sessions
This phenomenon further becomes a threat in the integrity and veracity of statements acquired from psychiatric counseling because this information may be purely imagined or made up by a person. It also challenges the psychiatrists and psychologists profession because they might be sued for the negligence they commit while having sessions because they, themselves might be the causative factor or corroborating agent which induced that certain memory to be implanted within a person. It has happened before in the United States where there were a number of lawsuits filed against psychiatrists who became negligent in treating patients which led to false memory syndrome.
Importance of Studies
Studies aiming to understand the real cause of these phenomena are important because they would help us understand further the complications which may arise out of these psychological problems. Also, it would help us to be cautious with things we do most especially in involving ourselves with psychiatric counseling or treatments.
More than that, it is but necessary to conduct studies regarding this as soon as possible and find ways to remedy this because more and more people would be affected most especially those who are falsely accused persons. Although there are chances for them to be vindicated of the accusations, there is still a negative impact on their personality because they have been tried on courts with things they didn’t actually do.
Ofshe RJ (1992). “Inadvertent hypnosis during interrogation: false confession due to dissociative state; mis-identified multiple personality and the Satanic cult hypothesis”. The International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis 40 (3): 125–56.
Loftus, Elizabeth (1996). “Memory Distortion and False Memory Creation.” Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 24 (3) 281-295.