Amnesia for Criminal Offences: Factors underlying Memory Loss and Recovery

Natalie Pyszora, Tom Fahy, Michael Kopelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Amnesia for violent offenses is common, but little is known about underlying causes or whether memory can recover. In this study, 50 violent offenders were interviewed with neuropsychological and psychometric measures, to determine the factors that underlie amnesia and the recovery of memory in these cases. The results showed that amnesia for a violent offense was associated with crimes of passion and dissociative symptoms at the time, but not with impaired neuropsychological functioning. Long amnesic gaps were associated with a state of dissociation surrounding the offense and with previous blackouts (whether alcoholic or dissociative). Memory often recovered, either partially or completely, especially where there was a history of blackouts or a lengthy amnesic gap. Brief amnesic gaps were likely to persist, perhaps as a consequence of faulty encoding during a period of extreme emotional arousal (or red-out).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-213
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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