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Reconstructing Memory Through Hypnosis: Forensic and Clinical Implications

NCJ Number
M T Orne; W G Whitehouse; D F Dinges; E C Orne
Date Published
43 pages
Hypnosis is discussed in terms of its nature and characteristics, the results of scientific research regarding its effects on memory, and the implications of these results for the use of hypnosis in the criminal justice system.
In clinical settings, the therapist and patient jointly define the events, the realities, and the memories that are relevant to the goals of psychotherapy, which involve helping the patient to cope more effectively and to feel better. In these settings, accuracy is less important than the manner in which the events are expressed, understood, and handled. In contrast, forensic applications focus on determining the truth. Studies have shown that normal human memory is considerably more reliable than are memories induced by the hypnotic process. In fact, hypnosis allows an individual to be influenced unwittingly and to become convinced of the accuracy of what may well be pseudomemories. However, it is not yet possible to distinguish between accurate memories and pseudomemories elicited during hypnosis. Therefore, testimony based on hypnosis or on any other procedures that invite fantasy, diminish critical judgment, and increase the risk of pseudomemories should be prohibited. 187 references.