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Simulating amnesia and memories of a mock crime

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Defendants often feign (i.e. simulate) dissociative amnesia for their crimes. The Symptom Validity Test (SVT) may be used to detect such feigning. Some studies have shown that feigning amnesia for a mock crime has memory-undermining effects. In this study, we wanted to replicate the memory-undermining effects of simulated amnesia. We also examined whether such effects would occur when participants' memories were evaluated with a SVT. Thirty participants committed a mock crime and then simulated amnesia for it. During a follow-up test, participants were instructed to perform as well as they could on a free recall test and a SVT. Their memory performance was compared with that of a control group ( n =30). Although only a minority of simulating participants (7%) was detected by our SVT, the memory-undermining effect of simulating amnesia appeared to be a robust phenomenon. That is, ex-simulators displayed poorer free recall, more commission errors, and lower SVT scores relative to memory performance of honestly responding controls. However, at follow-up testing the poor memory of ex-simulators did not take the form of a real amnesia (i.e. random performance on SVT).

Keywords: Feigned amnesia; Symptom Validity Test; mock-crime

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Experimental Psychology, Maastricht University, PO Box 616, 6200 MD, Maastricht, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2006-06-01

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