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Did you really commit that crime, or is your memory playing tricks?

When it comes to the topic of false confessions being made during criminal interrogations, don't doubt such an outcome.

That is the conclusion -- indeed, the markedly strong finding -- of researchers examining the memories of scores of participants in a recently released study and their accounts of crime-related events that simply never happened.

That study -- the combined collaboration of university psychologists and researchers in an international effort -- brought conclusions that an article discussing criminal interrogations and false memories calls "truly surprising."

In a nutshell, here's the recipe for inducing false confessions.

First, conduct several successive and relatively short interrogations, with each new meeting providing the opportunity for one or more interrogators to impart new bits of information and build on what an interviewee has previously said.

Second, intersperse true and accurate information from an interviewee's life relating to the past that is mixed together with falsely imparted details about some event that never occurred.

And that's it. The mind is an active and potent force, with what the above-cited article terms a "fundamental malleability" that can result in its blending of both real and fictional events from the past.

The researchers say that their study conclusions came as a stark surprise, with about 70 percent of all participants developing false memories of a crime after being told they had committed it during their teen years.

The lead researcher in the study says that false memories "can be surprisingly easy to generate."

Given that, it would certainly seem reasonable for any criminal suspect to invoke his or her legal right to have a proven defense attorney present prior to speaking with criminal investigators about alleged involvement in a crime.

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