Expert witnesses, dissociative amnesia, and extraordinary remembering: response to Brand et al.

Lawrence Patihis*, Henry Otgaar, Harald Merckelbach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

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Brand et al.’s (2018) response—as well as previous works by some of the authors—reveal a recurrent and concerning picture of using lengthy, but flawed, arguments to promote the concept of dissociative amnesia. Our focus here is not so much on the weak-to-moderate correlation between measures of trauma and dissociation—we concentrate more on the weak evidence for dissociative amnesia. If triers of fact accept there is a correlation between trauma and feeling depersonalized or experiencing memory errors, we foresee relatively few legal consequences. However, if the leap is made to accept that trauma causes dissociative amnesia (or dissociative identity disorder) then it opens the door to repressed memory testimony being trusted in the courtroom, which in the past has had negative consequences. The problem with the concept and theory of dissociative amnesia is that there is an easy-to-miss claim of extraordinary remembering that contradicts findings and theories in memory research. Incorrect beliefs in such extraordinary remembering that can have severe repercussions in court. We document some areas of agreement with Brand et al., but reiterate that there is a lack of evidence for the
mechanisms proposed in dissociative amnesia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-285
Number of pages5
JournalPsychological Injury and Law
Issue number3-4
Early online date9 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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