Psychologists and psychiatrists serving as expert witnesses in court: what do they know about eyewitness memory?
Expert witnesses have various tasks that frequently include issues of memory.
We tested if expert witnesses outperform other practitioners on memory issues of high relevance to clinical practice. We surveyed psychiatrists and psychologists who reported serving as expert witnesses in court (n = 117) about their knowledge and beliefs about human memory. The results were compared to a sample of psychiatrists and psychologists who had never served as expert witnesses (n = 819). Contrary to our expectations, the professionals serving as expert witnesses did not outperform the practitioners who never served. A substantial minority of the respondents harbored scientifically unproven ideas of human memory on issues such as the memory of small children, repression of adult traumatic memories, and recovered traumatic childhood memories. We conclude that the expert witnesses are at risk of offering bad recommendations to the court in trials where reliability of eyewitness memory is at stake.
Psychology, Crime & Law, 2014, DOI: 10.1080/1068316X.2014.915324