- Published: June 8, 2015
We’ve all experienced it and it’s well documented: the fallibility of human memory. Studies suggest that a number of factors can distort memories, in some cases even causing individuals to confidently recall events that never actually occurred. The ease with which false memories are produced raises obvious concerns about the reliability of statements made by witnesses and others in situations such as criminal investigations and courtroom trials. In a recent report in PLoS One, sleep loss was identified as yet another factor that produces false memories. Sleep-deprived subjects gave significantly more false responses on a recognition memory test than subjects who were allowed to sleep. Despite this difference, both groups were equally confidant about the accuracy of their answers. Interestingly, a dose of caffeine given an hour before the memory test increased the number of accurate responses given by sleep-deprived subjects. As we understand more, could it be possible that evidence of poor sleep habits may one day be sufficient to discredit eyewitness testimony?