Forensic psychology in court explains the psychological theory and research with every element of the legal system. A forensic psychologist expert in the UK courtroom primarily untangles the behavioural issues in civil, family and criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, whenever we talk about behavioural issues, there comes the challenge of unreliable memory!
The human memory’s susceptibility to error is a crucial discovery in forensic psychology in court since eyewitness evidence carries the most value in courtroom settings. Therefore, it is crucial for a forensic psychologist expert to understand how human memory works, its actuality and how this mismatch can significantly affect expert witness testimony in court.
Thus, this blog will talk about behavioural and memory-based intricacies in the court and how forensic psychologist expert understands and untangles memory. Moreover, we will discuss how a forensic psychologist utilises unreliable memory in the courtroom in a strategic manner. So, let’s dive into this topic right away.
How Forensic Psychology in Court Helps Understand the Memory?
The simplest method to comprehend human memory is to understand the sequences of images and videos. The human brain, by default, stores memories in a non-video format. Therefore, the recordings of past experiences are basically images (flashes) of past experiences.
In addition to that, the human memory is vulnerable to expectations, current and past emotional states, short and long-term trauma, repetition of the trauma, PTSD, realisations and definitive forgotten aspects. Therefore, a forensic psychologist expert in court cannot precisely access memory as it was stored when the claimant is recalling it.
Instead, it appears as an altered version of the original recollection, like a distorted image or a flashback. Therefore, forensic psychology in court believes that memories are always incomplete. They also lay the groundwork by the following beliefs vis-à-vis human memory:
- It contains amnesic gaps
- Information is frequently out of order
- Involves guesses and often contain inaccurate data
Tragically, considering courtroom settings, this failure to recall essential details may lead to the victim being dismissed as an untrustworthy witness. Therefore, it hinders the victim’s capacity to obtain justice. So, a forensic psychologist expert in the court knows there isn’t a Pinocchio’s nose to objectively determine whether someone is lying. Thus, it is important to understand the fallibility of memory to differentiate between trauma and dishonesty. By understanding these concepts and then carefully assessing human memory, forensic psychology draws a line between trauma-driven memory boxes and basic human dishonesty.
Let us go ahead and breakdown the fallibility of memory to help you understand it better and gain clarity on this subject.
The Fallibility of Memory
Memory deceptions can range from minor errors, like being unable to recall whether a traffic signal was red or green, to completely confused fabrications, like being kidnapped by a UFO or being lost in a mall as a child. The fallibility of memory extends beyond simple errors of commission, such as the formation of memory and illusions.
It encompasses not simply the deletion of specifics from the actual event but also incorporates the modifications following the current emotional state and self-actualisation. Such delusions are primarily classified into two types: endogenous and exogenous:
- Endogenous delusions, i.e., develop spontaneously within a person, or
- Exogenous delusions, i.e., due to another person’s suggestion
Following the belief of forensic psychology in court, it may even happen because two incidents similarly affected a person’s emotional well-being. In either of these cases, the forms of memory illusions are considered false memories by a forensic psychologist expert. Even if the causes or points of origin are different, they are still false memories.
The incorrectness of the elements formed and incorporated into the story happens without conscious awareness. Sometimes the rememberer is aware of it, but mostly not. Thus, the science of memory is still a work in progress. However, since the law has started to catch up with forensic research on memory (both true and false), it has been successfully incorporated into various legislations in the UK.
Forensic Psychology in Court Using Unreliable Memory
Legally, you should be able to recall the offender’s attire, words, day, date, time, and deeds. These details are essential for a court of law to find someone guilty – or not guilty.
However, when the law coincides with psychology, the guiding principle is always to make justice accessible. Therefore, before starting to untangle behaviours, experts in forensic psychology in court follow cortisol, a stress hormone and the Easterbrook hypothesis. Let us give you a brief glimpse of both these concepts:
- Simply put, the human body has a particular set of reactions when they witness violence. Cortisol, a stress hormone, fills the blood, preparing you for a fight-or-flight reaction.
- On the other hand, the Easterbrook hypothesis states that while you focus on the immediate threat, you tunnel your awareness towards your centre of vision and lose peripheral details.
You might remember what happened afterwards relatively well, but you can forget some details over time. It is solely because that is how human brains function. However, victims of repeated incidents tend to mix up one occurrence with another. All those minute details blend for persons who have experienced repeated trauma or abuse, such as victims of domestic abuse or workplace bullying. They might not be able to recall what the abuser said or what they were wearing on a specific day, instead forming a script-like memory of the abuse.
Then, following defence 101: you can entirely discredit the witness if you discover any inconsistencies in what they say.
Thus the primary challenge faced by forensic psychology in court becomes: the more the person is victimised, the more inconsistencies, the more incredibility, and the more inaccessible justice becomes.
What About the Win?
Studies have shown that repeated events can impact adults’ recall of particulars of an event. On the other hand, dishonest people usually prepare and practise a tale before using it. These rehearsed reports can make them seem assured, remarkably consistent, and therefore more credible. It makes the entire proceeding dependent on honesty and prevents the victims from accessing justice.
Nevertheless, Dilevski’s research successfully relaxed the legislation. The children who have endured long-term abuse no longer need to repeat the entire event. Instead, they only need to describe what typically happened in that abusive occurrence. Similar is the case with the adults, making justice accessible for the victimised. Forensic psychology in court ensures that the line they draw between rehearsed and dishonest memory and a traumatised brain is clarified and communicated to the judges and jury; hence, ensuring that the one who has been victimised in the past, doesn’t fail to get justice in the court by getting victimised again.
Human memory is a tricky business. Even the research and the science work are still in progress. Nevertheless, adults who have endured long-term repetitive abuse seem to be covered by the laws. It makes justice more readily available to those who have been victimised.
At Concise Medico, we have a panel of the most-efficient forensic psychologists. If you have been victimised and are struggling with a case, you don’t have to worry anymore! Consult our experts in forensic psychology in court and instruct them regarding your case. With a proven success record, we’re confident you will access justice! Our panel of HCPC-registered forensic psychologists in the courtroom ensure to draw this line effectively, in light of recent research and principles and communicate this effectively in the courtroom.