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Head of The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context
Vol. 7. Num. 1. 2015. Pages 3-12
 

Undeutsch hypothesis and Criteria Based Content Analysis: A meta-analytic review

[La hipótesis Undeutsch y el “Criteria Based Content Analysis”: una revisión meta-analítica]

Amado, Bárbara G. Arce, Ramón Fariña, Francisca

Abstract

The credibility of a testimony is a crucial component of judicial decision-making. Checklists of testimonycredibility criteria are extensively used by forensic psychologists to assess the credibility of a testimony, andin many countries they are admitted as valid scientific evidence in a court of law. These checklists are basedon the Undeutsch hypothesis asserting that statements derived from the memory of real-life experiencesdiffer significantly in content and quality from fabricated or fictitious accounts. Notwithstanding, there isconsiderable controversy regarding the degree to which these checklists comply with the legal standards forscientific evidence to be admitted in a court of law (e.g., Daubert standards). In several countries, thesechecklists are not admitted as valid evidence in court, particularly in view of the inconsistent results reportedin the scientific literature. Bearing in mind these issues, a meta-analysis was designed to test the Undeutschhypothesis using the CBCA Checklist of criteria to discern between memories of self-experienced real-lifeevents and fabricated or fictitious accounts. As the original hypothesis was formulated for populations ofchildren, only quantitative studies with samples of children were considered for this study. In line with theUndeutsch hypothesis, the results showed a significant positive effect size that is generalizable to the totalCBCA score, δ = 0.79. Moreover, a significant positive effect size was observed in each and all of the credibilitycriteria. In conclusion, the results corroborated the validity of the Undeutsch hypothesis and the CBCA criteriafor discriminating between the memory of real self-experienced events and false or invented accounts. Theresults are discussed in terms of the implications for forensic practice. 

Resumen

Con frecuencia, la evaluación de la fiabilidad de un testimonio se lleva a cabo mediante el uso de sistemascategoriales de análisis de contenido. Concretamente, el instrumento más utilizado para determinar lacredibilidad del testimonio es el Criteria Based Content Analysis (CBCA), el cual se sustenta en la hipótesisUndeutsch, que establece que las memorias de un hecho auto-experimentado difieren en contenido ycalidad de las memorias fabricadas o imaginadas. Las opiniones y resultados contradictorios encontradosen la literatura científica respecto al cumplimiento de los criterios judiciales (Daubert standards) así comoel abundante número de trabajos existentes sobre la materia, nos llevó a diseñar un meta-análisis parasometer a prueba la hipótesis Undeutsch, a través de la validez de los criterios de realidad del CBCA paradiscriminar entre la memoria de lo auto-experimentado y lo fabricado. Se tomaron aquellos estudioscuantitativos que incluían muestras de menores, esto es, con edades comprendidas entre los 2 y 18 años. Enlínea con la hipótesis Undeutsch, los resultados mostraron un tamaño del efecto positivo, significativo ygeneralizable para la puntuación total del CBCA, δ = 0.79. Asimismo, en todos los criterios de realidad seencontró un tamaño del efecto positivo y significativo. En conclusión, los resultados avalan la validez de lahipótesis Undeutsch y de los criterios del CBCA para discriminar entre memorias de hechos autoexperimentadosy fabricados. Se discuten las implicaciones de los resultados para la práctica forense. 

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