That’s Not How it Happened! Let Me Tell You the True Story

Neuroscience and Conflict Resolution Blog by Stephanie West Allen

How can two or more people sincerely, earnestly, and confidently have such widely divergent versions of events? As mediators, we often have heard stories from parties in which the facts are conflicting and yet no one seems to be deliberately deceiving.

Research continues to show us our memories are malleable and pliant so we are not surprised at the inconsistency. For a good reminder of our memories’ flexibility, take a look at "Remembering a Crime That You Didn’t Commit" (The New Yorker). Excerpt:

Shaw and Porter’s study also provides further evidence of the inaccuracy and malleability of human memory, evidence that is already compelling enough to have persuaded the state supreme courts of New Jersey and Massachusetts to mandate that judges instruct juries that eyewitness testimony is inherently unreliable. “Evolutionary theorists say memory is good enough—just good enough for us to survive and to reproduce,” Shaw told me. “But, at the very least, this research calls into question whether we should be putting so much weight on any memory in court”—especially in the absence of corroborating proof. …

                        author

Stephanie West Allen

Stephanie West Allen, JD, practiced law in California for several years, held offices in local bar associations, and wrote chapters for California Continuing Education of the Bar. While in CA, Stephanie completed several five-day mediation training programs with the Center for Mediation in Law, as well as a two-year intensive… MORE >

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