September 17, 2003
Recent Research for
Bjork, E. L. & Bjork, R. A. (2003). Intentional forgetting can increase,
not decrease, residual influence of to-be-forgotten information. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29(4), 524-531.
Judges accept and rely on many assumptions about the
legal process that are falsified by solid and credible scientific research.
To the extent that these mistaken assumptions may affect the accuracy of the
decisions made, they are a source of error and potential injustice.
This research study exposes another such potential error.
In the course of a trial, a judge often rules that
some evidence is inadmissible. If this is done after it has already
been said so that the jury heard it or saw it, the judge then tells the jury
to disregard the evidence and not to consider it. The trial then goes
on. This may also apply to questions or statements made by an attorney
which are then withdrawn or stricken from the record. This study, and
others, establishes that such an instruction does not work. In fact,
it makes the evidence more salient and more likely to be recalled.
They may not only be useless but in fact may in fact increase the indirect
or unconscious influence of the inadmissible evidence.