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Sleep deprivation may increase susceptibility to false memories
Date:7/23/2014

then viewed the crime photos in the morning.

In the second part of the experiment, the participants read narratives containing statements that contradicted what the photographs actually showed. For instance, a text description might say that the thief put a stolen wallet in his pants pocket, whereas the photo shows him putting it in his jacket.

The researchers found that only those students who had been sleep deprived for all parts of the experiment that is, they viewed the photos, read the narratives, and took the memory test after having stayed up all night were more likely to report the false details from the text narrative as having been present in the crime photos.

The students who viewed the photos before staying up all night, however, were no more susceptible to false memories than the students who'd been allowed to sleep.

The researchers believe these findings have important legal applications:

"Recent studies are suggesting that people are getting fewer hours of sleep on average, and chronic sleep deprivation is on the rise," says Frenda. "Our findings have implications for the reliability of eyewitnesses who may have experienced long periods of restricted or deprived sleep."

Frenda concludes that more research is necessary before scientists can provide law enforcement with evidence-based guidelines on how to best ensure that eyewitnesses' memories are accurate:

"We are running new experiments now, in order to better understand the influence of sleep deprivation on processes related to false memory."


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Contact: Anna Mikulak
amikulak@psychologicalscience.org
202-293-9300
Association for Psychological Science
Source:Eurekalert

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