Discrepancies in autobiographical memories— implications for the assessment of asylum seekers: repeated interviews study

This paper showed experimentally that people are more likely to give inconsistent answers when asked about the peripheral details of traumatic experiences (compared to central details and non-traumatic experiences). It also showed that for people with more symptoms of PTSD, the likelihood of inconsistencies goes up as the delay between interviews gets longer.

Herlihy, J., Scragg P, and Turner S. (2002). Discrepancies in autobiographical memories-implications for the assessment of asylum seekers: repeated interviews study. British Medical Journal 324 324-7

A paper published in the British Medical Journal which shows that when people are interviewed twice, many details of their stories change. Peripheral details of traumatic events are particularly likely to be inconsistent. For those with severe levels of PTSD, the longer the delay between interviews, the more likely the details of stories are to change. Thirty nine people were interviewed twice, about a traumatic and a non-traumatic experience. The delay between the 1st & 2nd interview varied between 4 and 28 weeks. This study is important to the field of asylum decision making as it provides evidence that people who are inconsistent over a number of interviews about traumatic experiences may be genuinely unable to be more consistent.

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