Stress can fool our memories, study finds

Originally published in The Arizona Daily Star, 2000 Tate Williams

Stress muddles memories, according to a UA study that raises doubts about eyewitness testimony in criminal cases.

Results of a standard word-memory experiment suggest that stress increases the likelihood that people will remember hearing words they actually did not hear. The participants in the study tended to remember the general themes of the words they had heard but confuse the details.

"Be really careful on not depending on the details," said Lynn Nadel, head of the University of Arizona psychology department and co-author of the study with graduate student Jessica Payne.

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