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Crime-related amnesia.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2006 (English)In: Witness testimony: Psychological, investigative, and evidential perspectives., Oxford University Press , 2006, 105-126 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

It is not uncommon that defendants claim amnesia for the crime of which they are accused, particularly in cases of homicide where 25-45% of offenders claim amnesia. This chapter presents arguments against and for the existence of such amnesias. Against the authenticity of amnesia, empirical data from interviews with homicide offenders indicate that they often have a strong motivation for feigning amnesia, and that their memory loss may possess typical features of malingered amnesia. Simulated or imagined amnesia may be at least as common as dissociative amnesia. However, unstructured clinical interviews are not a reliable way of differentiating between these types of amnesias. On the other hand, it can pointed out that many offenders claiming amnesia report their own offence, or fail to take measures to avoid capture. There are consistencies across their reports which are striking, and their descriptions do indeed bear some resemblances to other patients’ accounts of psychological forms of amnesia in clinical circumstances. Furthermore, victims sometimes report similar amnesias, and memory errors are common in eyewitnesses; nobody disputes the motives of these parties. Also, amnesia itself only rarely has legal implications, and may be damaging to the conduct of a person’s defence; it will certainly be challenged vigorously by the prosecution. Another point is that alcoholic blackouts are common in heavy drinking populations, and there is a high rate of offending and violent crime in such groups; it is not surprising that some individuals who have consumed large quantities of alcohol report amnesia for their offence. Finally, even the sceptic will not usually query the presence of amnesia in certain neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, hypoglycaemia, and somnambulism, although these can be at least as difficult to assess as the psychological forms of memory loss.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford University Press , 2006. 105-126 p.
Keyword [en]
malingered amnesia, memory, offender
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-20046ISBN: 978-0-19-927809-1OAI: diva2:186571
Available from: 2007-11-21 Created: 2007-11-21Bibliographically approved

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Christianson, Sven Å
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Department of Psychology

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