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Intentional retrieval suppression can conceal guilty knowledge in ERP memory detection tests

Bergström, Zara M, Anderson, Michael, Buda, Marie, Simons, Jon S, Richardson-Klavehn, Alan (2013) Intentional retrieval suppression can conceal guilty knowledge in ERP memory detection tests. Biological Psychology, 94 (1). pp. 1-11. ISSN 0301-0511. (KAR id:34222)


Brain-activity markers of guilty knowledge have been promoted as accurate and reliable measures for

establishing criminal culpability. Tests based on these markers interpret the presence or absence of

memory-related neural activity as diagnostic of whether or not incriminating information is stored in

a suspect’s brain. This conclusion critically relies on the untested assumption that reminders of a crime

uncontrollably elicit memory-related brain activity. However, recent research indicates that, in some

circumstances, humans can control whether they remember a previous experience by intentionally

suppressing retrieval. We examined whether people could use retrieval suppression to conceal neural

evidence of incriminating memories as indexed by Event-Related Potentials (ERPs). When people were

motivated to suppress crime retrieval, their memory-related ERP effects were significantly decreased,

allowing guilty individuals to evade detection. Our findings indicate that brain measures of guilty knowledge

may be under criminals’ intentional control and place limits on their use in legal settings.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Zara Bergstrom
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2013 09:07 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 06:39 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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