Memory and Law

Centre for Memory and Law

"The Centre for Memory and Law forms an international, interdisciplinary collaboration between academics and professionals who share a common interest in understanding the role of memory and how it serves as evidence. Our interests are far reaching but currently focus on witness memory reports in the media, legal cases, accounts of war, political oppression and applications for immigrant status."

Mission statement

The nature of specific memories and memory more generally is not well understood beyond the domain of memory researchers. However recent findings from memory research has important implications for the use of memory as evidence, not only in the case of the eyewitness testimony, but also for how jurors, barristers, and judges weight evidence. For example, in the legal arena alone, erroneous beliefs about memory have led to unsafe convictions - Innocence Project, USA.

These misunderstandings of memory can also be damaging, where in cases of rape, for example, memory as the major form of evidence is often undervalued due to circumstances surrounding the rape incident (only 18% of reported rapes result in a prosecution, and less than 7% in a conviction; Ministry of Justice, Home Office and National Office of Statistics 2013: 7).

The mission of this Research Centre is to produce research that has mutual benefit to both scientific and forensic inquiry. We, as scientists have been able to progress our theoretical understanding of how memory develops, is reconstructed, and can be distorted. In light of this, practitioners have been able to develop new techniques and protocols for examining memory in forensic fields. However, there are still considerable gaps in what we have recently discovered in the scientific study of memory and common beliefs still held about memory. Our hope is that the relationship between the scientific community and other professions continues to develop so that what becomes known about memory might become better disseminated and influence policy changes, procedures, and practices in important forensic contexts.

Centre members

Centre Directors

City, University of London members

  • Dr Christopher McDowell (Department of International Politics)
  • Prof. Howard Tumber (Department of Journalism)

Affiliate members

  • Madeline Greenhalgh (Director, British False Memory Society)
  • Dr Catherine Loveday (University of Westminster)
  • Prof. Michael E. Lamb (University of Cambridge)

Visiting Professors

  • Prof. Charles J. Brainerd (Professor of Human Development, Cornell University)
  • Prof. Stephen Ceci (Professor of Developmental Psychology, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University)
  • Prof. Elizabeth F. Loftus (Distinguished Professor, Psychology & Social Behaviour,  Criminology, Law & Society, Cognitive Sciences. School of Law, University of California, Irvine)

Visiting Fellows

  • Dr Henry Otgaar ( Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Clinical Psychological Science & Forensic Psychology, Maastricht University)

Recent publications

Otgaar, H., Schell-Leugers, J. M., Howe, M. L., de la Fuenta-Villar, A., Houben, S., & Merckelbach, H. (2021). The link between suggestibility, compliance, and false confessions: A review using experimental and field studies. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 35, 445-455.

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., Patihis, L., Merckelbach, H., Lynn, S. J., Lilienfeld, S. O., & Loftus, E. F. (2019). The return of the repressed: The persistent and problematic claims of long-forgotten trauma. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14, 1072-1095.

Otgaar, H., Bücken, C., Bogaard, G., Wade, K., Hopwood, A. R., Scoboria, A., & Howe, M. L. (2019). Nonbelieved memories in the false memory archive. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 8, 429-438.

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., Muris, P., & Merckelbach, H. (2019). Dealing with false memories in children and adults: Recommendations for the legal arena. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 6, 87-93.

Akhtar, S., Justice, L.V., Knott, L., Kibowski, F. and Conway, M.A. (2018). The ‘common sense’ memory belief system and its implications. International Journal of Evidence and Proof, 22(3), 289–304.

Howe, M. L., Knott, L. M., & Conway, M. A. (2018). Memory and Miscarriages of Justice. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Otgaar, H., & Howe, M. L. (Eds.) (2018). Finding the truth in the courtroom: Dealing with deception, lies, and memories. New York: Oxford University Press.

Knott, L. and Shah, D. (2018). The Effect of Limited Attention and Delay on Negative Arousing False Memories. Cognition and Emotion.

Hohl, K. and Conway, M.A. (2017). Memory as evidence: How normal features of victim memory lead to the attrition of rape complaints. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 17(3), pp. 248–265.

Conway, M.A., Howe, M.L. and Knott, L.M. (2017). Psychology of memory and cognition. Forensic Psychiatry: Fundamentals and Clinical Practice (pp. 63–69). ISBN 978-1-4441-3521-3.

Howe, M. L., & Knott, L. M. (2015). The fallibility of memory in judicial processes: Lessons from the past and their modern consequences. Memory, 23, 633-656.

Recent grants affiliated with the Centre

  • Economic and Social Research Council UK: "Examining emotion specific memories: An investigation into the persistence of true and false memories." Grant awarded to cover 2015-2018 (£352,236 for 3 years; Principle Investigator: L.M. Knott; Co-investigator: M.L. Howe).