Memory and the Law Lab
**Students interested in memory, psychology and law, forensic psychology, child maltreatment, and general intervention research may find themselves interested in this lab. **
My research focuses on applied memory applications to the legal system including eyewitness memory and suggestibility, as well as false and recovered memories. This research seeks to understand what factors positively and negatively impact memory so that this information can be used to develop and research interventions to improve eyewitness reports. For example, in an earlier study we found that preschool children were highly suggestible to questions about bodily touch that never occurred when the questions were phrased in a leading format, but in contrast, children were highly accurate when the questions were presented in a non-leading format (Krackow & Lynn, 2003). Given the research findings from other labs show that professionals are not able to train child protective service workers to ask questions in a non-leading format, another approach would be to train children to respond more accurately to suggestive questions. Therefore, I have developed an intervention to improve preschool and school-aged children’s eyewitness reports called Event Report Training and am continuing to test the efficacy of this intervention.
My research also focuses on therapeutic techniques that create false memories and the mechanisms by which these memories get created. For example, recent work has examined the role of imagination in the creation of false memories and has shown that participants’ physiological reactivity does not differ when people are recounting true vs. never experienced but imagined childhood events aloud (Krackow & Rabenhorst, 2010). However, there were differences that distinguished the true vs. never experienced but imagined narratives (Krackow, 2010). For example, imagined narratives contained a greater percentage of emotional words which may have implications for jurors’ perceptions of eyewitness reports as we know jurors’ use emotions as an indicator of credibility. This work is particularly important given that there are no current methods strong enough to reliably distinguish true vs. false eyewitness accounts. Future work is planned which will continue to examine experienced vs. never experienced but imagined childhood memory reports. Please note that these are just a few examples to demonstrate the approach I take to this work, as numerous other studies are in progress.
Another area of applied interest is the intersection between emotion and memory. For example , other recent studies have examined the impact of negative mood on memory for stressful life events. This has important implications for determining whether the general finding that individuals with depression experience greater life stress is a result of better memory for stressful life events. Relatedly, a current study is underway that examines how mother-child conversation about emotional events children have experienced differs as a result of the maternal mood.
Prospective applicants to the Clinical Child doctoral program should note that students in my lab learn high-quality research design skills while using research methods that are enjoyable to employ (and participate in) due to the interesting to-be-remembered events and interventions. This research also involves the intersection of developmental, cognitive, social, physiological, and clinical psychology thereby allowing students to integrate multiple fields of psychology. Eyewitness memory research has important legal implications but also has social policy implications, and therefore frequently appears in the media. Because there are few clinical Ph.D.s who study eyewitness memory and this research has important clinical applications, psychology internships may be interested in having students with this type of research background.