Commentary | Published:

Memory and law: what can cognitive neuroscience contribute?

Nature Neuroscience volume 16, pages 119123 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

A recent decision in the United States by the New Jersey Supreme Court has led to improved jury instructions that incorporate psychological research showing that memory does not operate like a video recording. Here we consider how cognitive neuroscience could contribute to addressing memory in the courtroom. We discuss conditions in which neuroimaging can distinguish true and false memories in the laboratory and note reasons to be skeptical about its use in courtroom cases. We also discuss neuroscience research concerning false and imagined memories, misinformation effects and reconsolidation phenomena that may enhance understanding of why memory does not operate like a video recording.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1.

    State v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208 (2011).

  2. 2.

    Anonymous. Identification: in-court and out-of-court identifications. Criminal Jury Charges <> (2012; accessed 15 September 2012).

  3. 3.

    , , & Jurimetr. J. 46, 177–214 (2006).

  4. 4.

    & PLoS ONE 6, e22757 (2011).

  5. 5.

    & The Science of False Memory (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2005).

  6. 6.

    Associative Illusions of Memory (Taylor & Francis, New York, 2006).

  7. 7.

    Am. Psychol. 58, 867–873 (2003).

  8. 8.

    The Sevens Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (Houghton Mifflin, New York and Boston, 2001).

  9. 9.

    , & Trends Cogn. Sci. 15, 467–474 (2011).

  10. 10.

    & Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 20, 24–27 (2011).

  11. 11.

    Learn. Mem. 12, 361–366 (2005).

  12. 12.

    , & Curr. Dir. Psychol. Sci. 20, 20–23 (2011).

  13. 13.

    & Psychol. Public Policy Law 7, 3–35 (2001).

  14. 14.

    , , & Law Hum. Behav. 28, 687–706 (2004).

  15. 15.

    Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 2011).

  16. 16.

    Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 35, 227–247 (2012).

  17. 17.

    , & Annu. Rev. Psychol. 61, 141–167 (2010).

  18. 18.

    , & Annu. Rev. Psychol. 49, 289–318 (1998).

  19. 19.

    in Memory Distortion: How Minds, Brains, and Societies Reconstruct the Past (eds. Schacter, D.L., Coyle, J.T., Fischbach, G.D., Mesulam, M.-M. & Sullivan, L.E.) 197–225 (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 1995).

  20. 20.

    & Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 4, 370–374 (2009).

  21. 21.

    & Neuron 44, 149–160 (2004).

  22. 22.

    , , & in Memory and Law (eds. Nadel, L. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W.P.) 233–262 (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2012).

  23. 23.

    Behav. Brain Functions 8, 35 (2012).

  24. 24.

    et al. Cereb. Cortex 18, 2811–2819 (2008).

  25. 25.

    , , & Neuron 75, 1122–1134 (2012).

  26. 26.

    et al. Neuron 17, 267–274 (1996).

  27. 27.

    & Nat. Neurosci. 7, 664–672 (2004).

  28. 28.

    et al. Psychol. Sci. 15, 655–660 (2004).

  29. 29.

    & Cereb. Cortex 16, 1126–1133 (2006).

  30. 30.

    & Cogn. Affect. Behav. Neurosci. 10, 339–348 (2010).

  31. 31.

    & Learn. Mem. 12, 3–11 (2005).

  32. 32.

    , & Learn. Mem. 17, 485–488 (2010).

  33. 33.

    , & J. Exp. Psychol. Learn. Mem. Cogn. 12, 171–181 (1986).

  34. 34.

    & Neuroimage 59, 3418–3426 (2012).

  35. 35.

    , & Learn. Mem. 14, 684–692 (2007).

  36. 36.

    , & Neuropsychologia 47, 2290–2298 (2009).

  37. 37.

    , & Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 107, 9849–9854 (2010).

  38. 38.

    in Memory and Law (eds. Nadel, L. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W.P.) 119–141 (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2012).

  39. 39.

    & Am. J. Law Med. 33, 377–431 (2007).

  40. 40.

    , & in Memory and Law (eds. Nadel, L. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W.P.) 263–303 (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2012).

  41. 41.

    Neuroscientist 17, 560–574 (2011).

  42. 42.

    , , , & Neuroimage 55, 312–319 (2011).

  43. 43.

    , & Cereb. Cortex 16, 1645–1652 (2006).

  44. 44.

    , , & Psychon. Bull. Rev. 3, 208–214 (1996).

  45. 45.

    & III. Mem. Cognit. 26, 20–33 (1998).

  46. 46.

    et al. Neuron 76, 677–694 (2012).

  47. 47.

    , , & Science 333, 108–111 (2011).

  48. 48.

    Trends Neurosci. 32, 413–420 (2009).

  49. 49.

    et al. Science 337, 1550–1552 (2012).

  50. 50.

    , , & Learn. Mem. 15, 574–579 (2008).

  51. 51.

    et al. Nature 463, 49–53 (2010).

  52. 52.

    & Psychol. Sci. (in the press).

  53. 53.

    Sci. Am. 304, 54–59 (2011).

  54. 54.

    State v. Nelson, 11th Fl. Cir. Ct., F05–846 (2010).

  55. 55.

    & Stanford Law Rev. 62, 1119–1208 (2010).

  56. 56.

    & Cognition 107, 343–352 (2008).

  57. 57.

    , & Behav. Sci. Law 29, 566–577 (2011).

  58. 58.

    et al. Psychol. Public Policy Law 17, 357–393 (2011).

  59. 59.

    Debate on brain scans as lie detectors highlighted in Maryland murder trial. Washington Post (26 August 2012).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Daniel L. Schacter is in the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

    • Daniel L Schacter
  2. Elizabeth F. Loftus is in the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California, USA.

    • Elizabeth F Loftus

Authors

  1. Search for Daniel L Schacter in:

  2. Search for Elizabeth F Loftus in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel L Schacter.

About this article

Publication history

Published

DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3294

Further reading

Newsletter Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing