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Verbal credibility assesment of incarcerated violent offenders' memory reports Ternes, Marguerite

Abstract

This study investigated the verbal credibility of incarcerated offenders’ memory reports of perpetrated violent crime through the use of Criteria Based Content Analysis (CBCA) and Reality Monitoring (RM). For a previous study, which examined memory in violent offenders, 150 male incarcerated violent crime perpetrators recalled up to five different types of memories: an act of perpetrated instrumental violence, an act of perpetrated reactive violence, a subjectively disturbing (traumatic) event, a positively valenced event, and a perpetrated act of violence for which the offender had poor memory (Cooper, 2005). The present study applied CBCA and RM to each of the memory reports of violence. In particular, this study compared the credibility of reports of instrumental violence to reports of reactive violence, compared credibility ratings with consistency with file information (whether details from memory reports were corroborated by correctional file information), compared the utility of CBCA and RM as credibility assessment tools, and compared the credibility ratings of psychopaths to nonpsychopaths. The results showed that the vast majority (96%) of the memories were judged to be credible according to CBCA. CBCA proved to be somewhat effective at discriminating memories based on consistency with file information, as every memory partially confirmed by correctional file information was found credible according to CBCA, and every memory found noncredible according to CBCA was not confirmed or was partially contradicted by correctional file information. RM, as measured by the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire, showed limited effectiveness in discriminating memories based on consistency with file information. Further, CBCA and RM were not similarly effective at discriminating memories based on the known truth of the memories. RM differentiated memories according to type of violence, but CBCA did not, suggesting that while memories for acts of instrumental violence are more vivid and detailed than memories for acts of reactive violence, they are not more likely to appear credible. Neither RM nor CBCA differentiated memory reports according to whether the participant met the diagnostic criteria for psychopathy. These results are discussed in terms of how they support existing research and theory. Their implications to the criminal justice system are discussed.

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