Harald Merckelbach (1959),
Professor of Psychology, Maastricht University.

I’m interested in memory distortions and the implications they might have for courts of law. Basically, there are two different types of memory distortions. One is forgetting, a memory failure that is familiar to all people. The extreme variant of forgetting has been termed amnesia, a total inability to retrieve memories. Amnesia is said to occur in people who have been exposed to traumatic events. The technical term for this is dissociative amnesia.

A second category of memory distortions are commissions or pseudo-memories. Here, people claim to have memories of events that never happened. The more radical version of this is confabulation.

Claims of amnesia or pseudo-memories might be authentic, but they might also be simulated. Such false claims are a form of malingering, which is a close cousin of lying.

The empirical and review articles of my colleagues and myself address these issues in various (clinical, forensic, healthy, children) samples.






Harald Merckelbach

(photo Koen van Os)