Law, Science, Top Stories

On the Fallibility of Memory and the Importance of Evidence

As we await the vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation and the results of the ongoing FBI investigation, America is left to ruminate a little longer on the testimonies he and Christine Blasey Ford gave before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Both were highly emotional and heartfelt. Ford sounded like someone who had experienced a trauma, and Kavanaugh sounded like a man falsely accused. Both left you wanting to believe the person on the stand, even if neither’s story remained completely consistent. But who should we believe? Shall we “believe the victim” or assume that the accused is “innocent until proven guilty?” A closer look at the science and nature of human memory, the historical trends on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, and the prevalence of wrongful convictions demonstrates that the most reasonable assumption is to believe both.

The Constructive Nature of Episodic Memory

Sometime in the early 1980s, Sigmund Freud’s theories of the subconscious and the psychosexual stages of childhood experienced a resurgence in popular culture. However, there was one important difference: his descriptions were no longer believed to be metaphorical, but real. According to researchers M.F. Mendez and I.A. Fras:

This paved the way for a decade of “uncovering” of memories, whose technique, particularly in children, was fraught with suggestion, and which culminated in bizarre and tragic phenomena such as the McMartin Preschool case of the late ’80s, in which innocent adults were falsely imprisoned on the basis of children’s suggested “memories” of often lurid and theatrical sexual abuse. In the wake of these events, investigators demonstrated that false or altered memories of events, even very traumatic ones, can be endorsed as “real” by otherwise normal people.

The science of “recovered memories” has since been mostly discredited, and according to the American Psychological Association, “Little or no empirical support for such a theory” has been found. But these events introduced the public to a concept that researchers had been quietly uncovering for years: memories are not concrete, nor do they simply deteriorate with age. They are malleable, changeable, and easily influenced by suggestion. These changes are incorporated into the original memory to a degree that they seem every bit as real as its truest aspects. As Yale researchers Marcia K. Johnson and Carol L. Raye noted, “All experience is constructed in that people use their general knowledge of the world to fill in ‘missing elements.’”

For this reason, memories are subject to what is known as the Misinformation Effect.

The Misinformation Effect

In 1978, three researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Houston conducted a study in which 195 students were shown slides depicting a car stopped at either a stop sign or a yield sign. The students then filled out a 20-question sheet containing one question that mentioned the presence of either a stop or a yield sign. For 100 of the subjects, the sign specified in the question was incorrect.

Students were then shown two slides—one with a stop sign and one with a yield sign—and asked to choose the image that they’d seen earlier. Those who had been given the misleading questionnaire chose the correct slide only 41 percent of the time; roughly half the rate of those with the consistent questionnaire, who were correct 79 percent of the time. For many of the students, the misinformation in the questionnaire had altered their visual memory to include the incorrect sign.

A similar study conducted in 1988 yielded similar results. Researchers showed participants slides depicting a burglar stealing a hammer from someone’s office. Then they read a brief report of the incident. Some of them were given reports correctly mentioning a stolen hammer—or more generically, a stolen tool—and others were given reports incorrectly mentioning a stolen wrench.  They were then given a test which included a question about the stolen item in which they could choose either “hammer” or “wrench.”  Those who had read the misleading report chose the correct tool only 43 percent of the time, compared to a 74 percent accuracy rate from those that had read a report with the generic term “tool.” “Misled subjects,” the authors remarked, “responded as quickly and confidently to these ‘unreal’ memories as they did to their genuine memories.”

It can be argued that these events weren’t consequential enough to be readily remembered.  Clearly, a bored college student misremembering pictures on a slide is very different from a victim misremembering the details of a sexual assault or other crime. Taking this into account, psychologists developed a term specifically to describe the memories of such traumatic events: flashbulb memories.

Flashbulb Memories

A flashbulb memory is a memory encoded in a time of intense psychological stress that is supposedly extraordinarily vivid and accurate, like a snapshot illuminated by the light of a camera’s flash. While not mentioned by name, this is the type of memory to which psychiatrist Richard Friedman is referring in his New York Times article, “Why Sexual Assault Memories Stick.” Interestingly, he cites only one study—which involves participants reading an “emotionally arousing short story”—to back up his claim that trauma leads to memories that are “indelible.”

This claim runs in direct contradiction to the majority of research on flashbulb memories. As researchers McCloskey, Wible, and Cohen have noted, flashbulb memories use the same neural mechanisms, decay at the same rate, and are no more nor less accurate than typical memories overall. The only notable difference seems to be the confidence with which people speak about their flashbulb memories.

However, not all researchers agree that flashbulb memories operate via the same neural mechanisms as typical memories, nor do they all agree that they are so similar in accuracy. In fact, many researchers argue that flashbulb memories are less accurate.

In a 2013 study, New York University neurologists Christina Alberini and Joseph LeDoux examine memory reconsolidation, in which the act of reconstruction at the time of retrieval leaves a memory “susceptible to change” each time it is remembered. Operating under the assumption that different kinds of memories are stored via different mechanisms, Alberini and LeDoux demonstrate that amygdala-dependent memories—those based on threat conditioning and intense fear emotions like in “flashbulb” memories—might be more susceptible to disruption and alteration via reconsolidation.

So, while these flashbulb memories might be described more vividly and with greater confidence than a typical memory, each of the details is no more—and probably less—accurate than those of a normal memory. It is not so much like a camera’s snapshot of an event as it is like an impressionist painter’s interpretation of it. As City University of London professor of psychology Mark L. Howe explained in a 2013 paper entitled, “The Neuroscience of Memory Development: Implications for Adults Recalling Childhood Experiences in the Courtroom”:

There is another ‘common sense’ belief about memories of stressful and traumatic experiences, namely, that they are protected from being lost or distorted (…) Indeed, stress and trauma can have either a positive (memory enhancing) or a negative (memory impairing) effect: extreme levels of stress impair memory, whereas moderate levels can strengthen memory. Although hormones released during stress (e.g., epinephrine, cortisol) modulate consolidation and memory strength, this does not mean that these memories are immune to forgetting, distortion, or even possible erasure. In addition, stress impairs retrieval, particularly of autobiographical memories, and stress during reconsolidation can also lead to systematic distortions.

A natural question to ask in the face of this might be, “Even if a traumatic memory is naturally more susceptible to disruption, wouldn’t that be countered by the fact that you’d likely think of it more often than a typical memory?” It is a reasonable question, once again based on common sense notions of memory. Shouldn’t frequent remembering and/or rehearsal of a memory protect it from deterioration? As is normally the case when attempting to apply common sense to memory science, the evidence shows the exact opposite to be true.

Memory Rehearsal Increases Forgetting

In yet another variation of the misinformation studies mentioned above, researchers had students watch an episode of 24, which none of them had seen before. In this episode, a terrorist knocks out a flight attendant with a syringe. Some of the students were immediately given a non-multiple choice recall test including questions such as, “What did the terrorist use to knock out the flight attendant?” while the rest played Tetris for the duration of the test. Then, all of the students listened to an 8-minute narrative of the video, with some of the narratives containing factual information, (e.g. knocked out with a syringe), some containing misinformation, (e.g. knocked out with chloroform), and some containing neutral information which didn’t specify the method used to knock out the attendant. Finally, all students took the same recall test mentioned above, with those in the initial testing group taking it a second time.

The experimenters initially believed that those who were immediately asked to recall the episode would be more greatly protected from future misinformation about it. What they found instead was the opposite: taking the test the first time did not protect students from the misinformation effect. In fact, those who had taken the test previously were more likely to be influenced by the misinformation.

Figure 1: This shows the probability of a student choosing the correct item vs. the misinformation item in the final recall test. Consistent items were those in the narrative that overtly stated the correct item (e.g. knocked out with a syringe), control items were generic mentions (e.g. knocked out), and misleading items were incorrect items mentioned in the narrative (e.g. knocked out with chloroform). Those who had taken the first test (gray bars) were more likely than the no-test group (white bars) to incorporate the misinformation into their memories when the narrative had been misleading, resulting in more incorrect answers in the final test.  (Chan, Thomas, & Bulevich (2009) Recalling a Witnessed Event Increases Eyewitness Suggestibility)

These findings are consistent with the findings of researchers Alberini and LeDoux, who found that each retrieval of a memory leaves it susceptible to alteration. Thus, memories that are called upon quite frequently—as traumatic memories often are—will decrease in accuracy at a more rapid pace than those that are retrieved less often. Over a long enough period of time, this can lead to a memory that’s virtually unrecognizable when compared to the original event. “When memories are retrieved they are susceptible to change, such that future retrievals call upon the changed information.”

Naturally, these inaccuracies in memory can have devastating effects in a courtroom.

Prevalence of Wrongful Convictions via Eyewitness Misidentification

In 1992, the Innocence Project was founded in response to the large number of falsely incriminated individuals that were being exonerated due to advancements in DNA testing and analyses in criminal investigations. Since then, they have documented 362 cases in which a prisoner was exonerated due to exculpatory DNA evidence. These innocent people served an average of 14 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

By far, the leading cause of false imprisonment in these cases was eyewitness misidentification, which played a role in 70 percent of the convictions. Nearly half of those misidentifications (46 percent) involved multiple eyewitnesses “identifying” the same, innocent person. Separate findings noted in the case of Perry vs. New Hampshire suggest that as many as one out of every three eyewitness identifications are incorrect.

Contrary to what one might expect, a 2013 study found that eyewitness testimonies of victims are far more likely to play a role in wrongful convictions than those of bystanders. (It should be noted that in the case of sexual assaults, this is partially attributable to the prevalence of cases in which there is no non-victim eyewitness.) Out of 71 people wrongfully convicted of rape, 73 percent were misidentified by an eyewitness. 92 percent of these misidentifications were by the victim alone or both the victim and a third party eyewitness, making victims four times more likely to be the one who had misidentified the perpetrator (only 23 percent of misidentifications were by a third party).

Figure 2: Irazola, Williamson, Stricker, and Niedzwiecki (2013) Study of Victim Experiences of Wrongful Conviction

In a smaller sample of 22 cases (9 of which were of rape), 52 percent of victims actually knew the wrongfully convicted person prior to the crime. Though this sample is too small and the data too scant to make any accurate predictions about the percentage of misidentifications of known persons on a larger scale, it is enough to suggest that this is something that can and does happen given that 90 percent of reported sexual assaults are by someone previously known to the victim.

Of course, much of this depends on the broad definition of a “previously known person.” For example, it would likely take an extraordinary set of circumstances for a person to misidentify a close friend as their attacker. However, studies have shown that our recognition of casual acquaintances—people we may see quite often but with whom we rarely interact—is often no better than chance.

In a study of “Non-Stranger Identification,” researchers tested 157 high school sophomores and juniors in a small, private high school on their ability to recognize the faces of students who were seniors during their freshman years (for the juniors, those that had graduated two years prior, and for the sophomores, those that had graduated the previous year). While most of these would not have been close friends of the participants (those with family members in the classes were excluded), they would have come in casual contact with them on a daily basis over the course of the school year.

The participants were shown 50 senior yearbook pictures that would either be of students from their own high school or students from a distant high school, and they were then asked to determine whether each of the images was “familiar” or “unfamiliar.” Amazingly, participants only correctly judged former students from their own high school as “familiar” 45 percent of the time, while they falsely judged students from other high schools to be familiar 28 percent of the time. In the words of the researchers, these results suggest that “an eyewitness’s report that he can recognize a perpetrator because he has seen him casually in the past is of dubious reliability.”

The faults of memory are clear, and their influence on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony equally so. But the failure of memory is not the only source of inaccuracy. The second source, while less palatable—and likely less prevalent—is unfortunately more in line with “common sense” expectations. But, while the #MeToo movement has thankfully reduced the tendency towards this assumption, it is still undoubtedly a possibility that must be considered in each and every criminal case.

False Accusations

In 2006, an exotic dancer and escort by the name of Crystal Mangum accused three lacrosse players at Duke University of sexually assaulting her. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong suggested that the white lacrosse players should also be charged for a hate crime against Mangum, who is black. The accusations turned out to be false. Nifong—who had allegedly used this case as a means to gain publicity in the midst of his campaign to retain his seat as North Carolina’s DA—was disbarred for his improper handling of the case. Mangum suffered no penalty for her false accusations, but she would later go on to be convicted for murdering her boyfriend and sentenced to 14–18 years in prison five years after the Duke incident.

In 2014, Rolling Stone ran a story about a woman who claimed to have been a victim of gang rape by a University of Virginia fraternity. In 2015, the magazine was forced to retract the article when the allegations turned out to be false, and the Columbia Journalism School issued a report which stated that the magazine did not employ “basic, even routine journalistic practice” to verify the accuser’s claims. The fraternity filed a defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, which would eventually settle the suit with a payment of $1.65 million.

Over the course of the last year alone, a woman was sentenced to ten years in prison for making a series of false allegations of sexual assault and rape against a total of 15 men in the U.K. A New Jersey man filed a $6 million suit against a woman who had accused him of rape—an accusation that led to his expulsion from Syracuse University. After “a months-long investigation, which included a medical exam, rape kit, and bloodwork within 26 hours of the incident, found no evidence [she] was assaulted, drugged or even had a sexual encounter with [the man].” Nine current and former Minnesota football players have opened a defamation and discrimination suit against the university after four players were expelled and one suspended following a Title IX investigation when a subsequent police investigation led to no charges by the county attorney office for an alleged gang rape.

Still, it’s reasonable to argue that these were simply extreme or unusual cases that garnered disproportionate media attention. Confronted with stories like these, activists routinely point to data that shows the rate of false claims is only about 5.9 percent. However, they invariably neglect to mention that this figure only covers those cases that were unequivocally proven to be false by authorities. It does not include cases dropped due to insufficient evidence or otherwise left unresolved because the victim withdrew from the process, or was unable to identify the perpetrator, or mislabeled an incident that does not fit the legal definition of sexual assault. The number of cases that fall into one or more of these categories is 44.9 percent, not including the 5.9 percent figure, above. It’s therefore impossible to tell what the true percentage of false accusations is, but even a 6 percent (or one in 17) chance that an innocent person may be convicted ought to be too great a risk.

Without corroborating evidence, a false memory would be impossible to detect, especially given the tendency for such memories to be held with a particularly unusual sense of certainty. But isn’t there at least a surefire way to detect an outright lie?

Can Polygraph Tests Ensure Accuracy?

In short, no. The popular use of the term “lie detector” in reference to a polygraph test is somewhat of a misnomer. Polygraphs measure changes in physiological arousal, such as increases in heartrate, blood pressure, or sweating. The idea is that a lying person might feel anxious due to fear of being caught, leading to such arousal. There are at least three problems with this method.

The first is that if a person does not fear being caught or does not have an emotional reaction to their own lie—e.g. a person who is familiar enough with the methods of a polygraph not to fear it or a person with sociopathic tendencies—the polygraph will obtain no significant reading. The second is that a person might feel anxious even when telling the truth due to the intimidating nature of the polygraph or when questioned about a traumatic event, leading to a false positive reading. Finally, if the interviewee is already in a particularly emotional or otherwise physiologically aroused state—which often happens when one is questioned about a traumatic event—any further increases in arousal due to a lie might be too small for the polygraph to obtain a significant reading.

A polygraph may be an accurate method of measuring changes in physiological arousal, but it cannot give a definite reason for that arousal. In other words, it cannot actually detect a lie. This is why, in a survey of members of the Society for Psychophysiological Research and Fellows of the American Psychological Association:

Most of the respondents believed that polygraphic lie detection is not theoretically sound, claims of high validity for these procedures cannot be sustained, the lie test can be beaten by easily learned countermeasures, and polygraph test results should not be admitted into evidence in courts of law.

So, while a person’s answers to questions given during a polygraph test may be used as evidence in a court of law, the readings of the polygraph itself are generally considered inadmissible. The purpose of the polygraph is not to use the readings, but it is more generally used to test whether a layperson unfamiliar with its methods would be willing to take a so-called “lie detector test” in the first place. As Houser and Dworkin noted in their paper, “The Use of Truth-Telling Devices in Sexual Assault Investigations”: “The debate around the accuracy of truth-telling devices is a central reason for the VAWA 2005 provisions limiting the use of such devices with victims of sexual assault.”

Polygraphs do not serve the function that most people tend to assume. Outside of the world of science fiction, there is no such thing as a true “lie detector.” Sexual assaults, generally being particularly traumatic and emotionally disturbing, are the perfect storm of confounding variables, making these polygraphs even less useful. This is only one of many aspects which make sexual assault cases particularly difficult to navigate.

The Unique Difficulty of Sexual Assault Cases

Sexual assault often carries with it severe psychological trauma for the victim; trauma which long outlasts any physical damage from the attack. For this reason, it is vastly underreported, with estimates placing the number of unreported rapes at 69 percent. When it is reported, the difficulty of obtaining hard, physical evidence leads to only an 18 percent chance that the report leads to an arrest. And, even when there is an arrest, the punishment is often inadequate, with fewer than 11 percent of arrests leading to incarceration. The mandatory minimum sentence for a first degree sexual assault can be two, five, or ten years, depending on the circumstances, which means it is often less than or equal to the minimum sentence for the sale of marijuana.

All of this combined with the rarity of supporting physical evidence and/or a third party witness in cases of sexual assault makes the evidence against the validity of eyewitnesses—victim or non-victim—all the more troublesome. It is imperative that the needs of victims are addressed, giving them the proper encouragement and support through a highly traumatizing experience. Admittedly, knowledge of the fallibility of eyewitness testimony may do more harm than good in some ways, only serving to further detract victims from reporting an assault.

But it is also important to acknowledge the seriousness of the allegation, as it is one that will often ruin the life of the accused even if they are found to be innocent. It is important to acknowledge that an uncorroborated eyewitness testimony runs the serious risk of leading to an innocent person being incarcerated. At the very least, even in the face of inadequate evidence, an acquitted person will always carry an accusation of one of Western societies’ most stigmatized crimes.

It is a uniquely difficult field to navigate, but there must be a balance between believing the accuser and the presumption that the accused is innocent. It is both logically impossible and vitally important that both of these beliefs be held simultaneously. This is why we must be scrupulous when weighing the evidence in support of either presupposition.

The Importance of Corroborating Evidence

We tend to treat our memory of an event as the whole picture—as something concrete—because it is our whole picture, and we consider ourselves concrete. But neither of these beliefs is true; we are as malleable as the memories that define us. Our views of ourselves and the world change, and our memories are altered accordingly. For this reason, Mark Howe argues:

Whether the witness is a child or an adult, all memory-based evidence is reconstructive. This is because memories are not veridical records of experience but are fragmented remnants of what happened in the past, pieced together in a “sensible” manner according to the rememberer’s current worldview.

The burden of proof in law does not exist only for the sake of a more entertaining courtroom drama. It exists because prosecuting someone without corroborating evidence—because the accuser seems believable—often leads to innocent people going to prison. Whether it be by a victim or by a third party, eyewitness testimonies are by far the least reliable form of criminal evidence. There is some risk of misidentifying a perpetrator even with testimonies by multiple eyewitnesses, but there is no scenario more likely to lead to false incrimination than a prosecution based on a single, uncorroborated account. There is no scenario more likely to end in the loss of an innocent person’s freedom and the subsequent destruction of their life. All of this must be considered in the judgment of Brett Kavanaugh.

The Case of Kavanaugh and Ford

The importance of the case of Kavanaugh and Ford is the precedent that it will set. This is not a movie, in which the authorities know the mob boss is guilty, but just can’t seem to nail him for his crime. This is two people who both have a legitimate case to make, and neither can prove or disprove the other’s claims. It is possible that Ford’s allegations are true, and to deny that possibility is to admit bias in the case.

However, to deny the possibility that Kavanaugh is innocent would require a similar bias. Were he on trial, he would not be convicted unless that possibility can be disproved beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if Ford is right, it’s not enough to take one person on their word, as the law states that a court must operate on the presumption of innocence with respect to the accused. Memory is not so infallible that one person’s account of an event 36 years ago is sufficient to overcome that presumption. This law is in no danger of being changed.

But, as individuals making personal judgments about the truthfulness of Kavanaugh and Ford, we are not held to the same standards as our justice system. While the law on the burden of proof is clear, we are free to believe whatever we choose. Will we choose to align those beliefs with the law and say that people are “innocent until proven guilty?” Or will we be harsher in our judgment; quicker to presume guilt than those who carry a gavel? To answer this in a fair-minded manner, it is important to remember why our laws were written to favor the defendant.

Accusations are not always justly made, and even when they are, they may be misattributed based on the malleable and reconstructive nature of human memory. Lawmakers and enforcers do not want to risk ruining the life of someone who they can’t be sure, “beyond reasonable doubt,” is guilty. So, as our knowledge in the field of memory science and the wealth of troubling statistics concerning the inaccuracy of eyewitness accounts continue to grow, trust in both is justifiably waning, and a preference for physical evidence has strengthened. For it is better to risk a guilty man going free than to risk an innocent man losing his freedom. Or, more aptly, it is better to risk a guilty man’s reputation remaining untarnished than to risk ruining the life and career of an innocent one.


Tyler Watkins received his BA in psychology from the University of Iowa and has since worked in the fields of medical and psychological research at Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Iowa. He is currently pursuing a career as an independent writer and journalist and has appeared in Areo Magazine. You can find more of his writing at and follow him on Twitter @WatkinsDoOp


  1. A brilliant article published with the kind if joyrnalistic integrity that has vanished from mainstream media. I am increasing my monthly patronage of Quillette, and would encourage others to do the same.

    • C. Norman says

      I appreciate the failings of human memory and historical trends on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, but this was not a mugging by a stranger in a dark alley being picked out of a police lineup of similar characters. Imagine you go for dinner with someone who you’d hung out with a few times before — this is not a stranger. Now imagine half way through dinner he stands up and punched you in the face. The odds that you misremember this person is zero. You may forget the date or time or location or what you were wearing, sure; but there’s no universe in which his entire identity is shot. No.

      • Perhaps. But when memories come come back after therapy that is particularly problematic. And after 30 or so years I’m not sure you do necessarily remember the assailant correctly.

      • Your argument sounds true but isn’t supported by science. The odds are indeed not “zero” that you are mistaken particularly if it was 35 years ago.

        And what are the odds that you’re lying? Or that you are mentally ill? Or are or had been under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Or that you have a brain disease? I’m not being coy. We aren’t computers though we feel like it.

        But have you never had a gathering of old friends or siblings and shared memories only to find that you each remember something different, and sometimes diametrically? I’m not talking about what you ate for dinner. I’m talking about traumatic memories, e.g. with my siblings about my father’s assault on my sister. I remember it clearly. She equally clearly denies it.

        As for severe trauma–I myself was raped by my father over a period of years. Here’s the deal. I remember everything.I remember the year, the place, the feel of the bedsheets & the smell of his skin. I started talking about it to therapists in my early 20s. I haven’t changed any details at all. You say you may forget the date or time or location–no, you don’t.Unless you were very young or drugged, if you remember the assault, you remember the other details. If you don’t, that is a red flag.

        However, I have also known pathological liars, psychopaths and so on who claim to remember things that never happened to them. They do this chiefly through borrowed stories-they copy someone else’s story and apply it to themselves. There is literally no way to corroborate an accusation unless you have corroboration. This is what made my father’s rape of me so devious by the way. That doesn’t mean that all men should be punished as a group because of what my father did. That simply means that some crimes are really evil.

  2. Brilliant, and probably the most exhaustive, fact-based take on this polarizing issue. Gladwell has also done a couple of incredible podcasts on the frailty of memories that are worth listening to. Thank you Tyler!

  3. Hank Vandenburgh says

    This is pretty much all quibbling. She wasn’t a young child who was guided to false memories by investigatory and treatment personnel (who follow treatment fads – some of my own research.) She is appropriately sure it’s him who held her down, muzzled her, and tried to rip her clothes off, while chortling with his buddy. He sounded like a person who was lying and covering it up. Not someone falsely accused. Defensive. Also, she was a “nerd,” fair game in their minds for sosh boys to exploit.

    • Daath says

      There is a difference between entirely false and distorted memories, just as there is a difference between fragmentary and total alcohol blackout. If I had to make a guess, I’d say they both had been drinking heavily, and then something happened. Maybe Kavanaugh tried to move from second base to third while there was someone else in the room, Ford was mortified, and ran away.

      Kavanaugh’s memory of the event faded within days, as it was fragmented in the first place, and for him it was just a case of a girl acting weird. Ford’s grew ever more ominous over the years. Kavanaugh being partly over him turned into him holding her down and muzzling her, a finger slipping underneath clothes into hands ripping clothes off, and the dude nodding off in the corner into Kavanaugh’s chortling pal. And of course she had just one drink.

      I know I can’t be certain, or really do more than guess. You, it appears, made up your mind long ago. What, by the way, are the differences in behavior between someone defending himself against accusation he’s sure he’s not guilty of, and someone being guilty and defensive? Hopefully not just an impression you get, a feeling you have.

        • kong says

          @Mr. Tweed

          “Don’t guess. It’s not helpful.”

          So I take it this is your first time on an Internet comments board…?

      • Russell Dummerth says

        That’s not really a guess. Thats a very reasonable, possible explanation for why they both seem credible.

      • Margot says

        You’r not guessing, you are substituting an entirely different story for the one Ford told.

    • petros says

      @Hank Vandenburgh “This is pretty much all quibbling”

      You would not find it quibbling if you were the one being accused of a crime. Believe me. You’d have an INTENSE interest in the reliability of memory and polygraphs.

      Years ago, one of my father’s rich clients accused him/his building crew of stealing a case full of valuable jewelry from their house while they were working there. The police harassed everyone–did polygraphs, station interviews, bullied the laborers, made it clear they knew they were guilty and would find the evildoers. My father was scared sick.

      Then the client found the jewelry in her storage locker. She had … forgot!

    • Innominata says

      Something I wish this article would have brought up:


      Especially as they relate to memory? Ford has complained of having longstanding anxiety and mental illness. The statistics suggest she has been prescribed antidepressants, and possibly hypnotics (Ambien) and/or benzodiazepines (Xanax, Ativan, Valium) to combat anxiety and sleep problems.

      Benzos and hypnotics in particular will mess with memory like crazy (so to speak). They can make subjects suggestible, volatile and vengeful, overemotional, disassociated, confused, irrational … just about any weird behavior you care to mention.

      If prescribed long-term–which doctors do all the time even though the FDA says max one month on benzos–patients can have memory loss, brain damage, delusions, hallucinations, personality changes, paranoia …

      Also, benzos will alter the results of–say it with me!–a polygraph:

      I was surprised the Pub senators chose not to ask Ford whether she is under the influence of any mind-altering medications today. That would have been a game changer to me. If I find out someone telling a story no one can verify has been drugged every day for years or even decades, that changes the narrative.

      I know a number of women who were leapt upon as teenagers by exuberant young men and much worse. In my experience, mentally healthy and strong women don’t wind up in years of therapy and marriage counseling, demanding their husbands install second front doors for escape and threatening to flee the country, because of one such incident. Mentally ill people, on the other hand, can have a grievous breakdown from what seems like a minor incident to others.

      I suggest Ford already suffered from mental illness and may have had some trauma (don’t know if it was Kavanaugh or somebody else) that compounded the difficulties of a fragile psyche. I would be amazed if she HASN’T been on medications of one sort or another for a very long time.

      • Agreeable Contrarian says


        Cuz the average IQ is 100

        Cuz a lot of people feel deep down they have the magical ability to tell whether someone on the TV is lying, and would rather believe in their magical powers and feel sure than admit they have no idea whom to believe and feel unsure

        Cuz the very real possibility that Ford is drugged out of her skull and has been for years (Xanax is the MOST prescribed psychiatric drug in the US) is unobvious, and most people don’t think about what might be missing, only what they can see (Sherlock Holmes said something about that in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”)

        I took Xanax for a year. I became a different person. I became really self righteous, got in fights. I got off, and I can’t believe how I was looking back. If Ford has been or is on something like Ambien or Xanax … good god. The idea that we’re running around waving our hands and screaming because of a sick woman on mind-blowing drugs (and I TRULY feel for her if that is true) is just sickening to think about.

        Well played.

      • Ponerous says


        You know that feeling when you find out that Kaiser Soze is really Kevin Spacey? In the movie? I just got that feeling. Damn dude. Might be.

        That might explain why they keep asking for her therapy notes and her lawyers keep dancing around. Her medications would be in her therapy notes, I’m guessing.

        Of course asking her whether she’s high all the time would be blaming the victim. And you can’t accuse a white, liberal San Fran university professor of being cracked out and unreliable, because only poor women can be cracked out and unreliable.

      • Actual Russian Troll says


        Actually, we might be talking about Ford and any medication she has been taking sooner than you think. Follow along here.

        Ford’s ex-boyfriend has accused her in a sworn statement of perjury, saying that he witnessed Ford coached a friend, MONICA MCLEAN (remember that name) when she was being polygraphed for an FBI job years ago, even though Ford told the Senate she never, ever coached anybody on polygraphs under any circumstances.

        McLean went on to work for the DOJ and FBI and was by all accounts an anti-Trumper. She retired when he became president. It seems like McLean advised and maybe even drove Ford through the process of contacting her congresswoman and the media about her allegations against Kavanaugh. Ford was staying at McLean’s house in Delaware (where she flew on a plane, of course) when she wrote her letter to Feinstein.

        Leland Keyser–the friend who Ford claimed was at the party with her and Kavanaugh but who said she doesn’t remember any such event and has never seen Kavanaugh–is reported to have told the FBI in her interview that McLean contacted her and pressured her to change her sworn statement to be more favorable to Ford.

        Here’s how this relates to medications:

        I have no idea whether Ford is lying about 17-year-old Kavanaugh. He might have done what she said. I can’t read minds, and I’m not a human polygraph machine (I seem to be one of the few Americans lacking these abilities).

        What I do know is that there’s mounting evidence Ford has been lying like a rug lately to guild her story. It looks like Ford fibbed to the Senate about fear of flying, coaching polygraphs, the reason for more doors on her house, contacting her congresswoman herself with no prompting, and who knows what else. Also, Ford, her legal team, and McLean may have suborned perjury and contacted witnesses illegally, and may have even coordinated stories and timing with other “accusers.”

        Thanks in part to the seventh FBI background investigation demanded by the Dems, the Senate GOP are well aware of Ford’s fibs and fudges, and signals coming from Grassley’s letters and other documents are they aren’t going to let her slide. Not this time. They seem to be building a case, and I suspect a new sheriff is coming to town.

        I think there is a decent chance the GOP senators intend to get Kavanaugh confirmed and then go down to pound town on Ford; to discredit her as an activist pawn in a cynical, dirty game; burn her right down to the ankles, putting the fear of almighty god in others who might feel tempted to volunteer in future as cutouts for Democrat Party political assaults under the false flag of ME2 social justicing, using unverifiable accusations and smears.

        If I am correct and Ford gets hammered for crimes like perjury, conspiracy, or witness tampering, all the sudden, her medical records will come out. Her lawyers will assert that she was taking all manner of drugs that made her unstable, confused, and forgetful. She didn’t lie and conspire. It was just confusion and forgetfulness brought on by mind-altering medications. She was just a victim.

        They will argue that she shouldn’t go to prison. Why, she could get sexually assaulted there, and that would be the most darkly hilarious turnabout of all time. No, she needs psychiatric institutionalization and bigger, better drugs to fix the other drugs.

        If I were Ford, I’d be boarding a plane to Moscow yesterday and bunking with Snowden for a while, at least until 2020 or whatever, when The Dark Lord is overthrown and Princess Pocahontas brings light and love and hugs back to the kingdom. Ford wanted to be an example and a symbol, and if she doesn’t vanish, she might just get her wish in a way she finds unpalatable. And I don’t see a presidential pardon coming her way. Not in this administration.

        Time will tell if I’m right. It’s just a suspicion.

    • Mr.Tweed says

      Are you even aware of how your post is a sad parody of the personal, emotional, non-evidence based judgement described in this article?

    • Russell Dummerth says

      I like how research and science is being described as “Quibbling.” And being defensive is an appropriate response to being falsely accused. Your biases are so evident in your comment. I’m an actual rape victim who wants to see justice for all victims of sexual assault. But I’m still able to be objective enough to know there is no way either of us can know the truth of what happened to Dr. Ford. And in a civilized society, where we value fairness, due process, and the presumption of innocence, we have to treat Kavanaugh as if he were innocent, unless there was any evidence(which there is not). Those values are what lifted us from the Dark Ages. They are what separate us from the Spanish Inquisition or the Soviet Gulag system.

    • Jeffrey Hart says

      No she wasn’t a young child, but her doctor hypnotized her to uncover her “repressed” memory of this. Something long dismissed by not only professionals, but the U.S. Justice System long ago. Up until this last June, she never identified who it was, and only then when she wrote the letter.

    • She has a memory, but as an eyewitness, she could have it wrong from the very beginning. Then she saw a therapist and retold the story several times (apparently without naming him once). Then he’s on a short list and now the memory is fully vivid.
      As pointed out, even a strong memory isn’t necessarily true. And many of our memories are actually from retelling, rethinking, etc. and over time it can change.
      Besides, the real issue is that evidence matters more than a memory when accused.

  4. Garry A says

    As a lawyer, I find this article to be both soundly researched and true in my experience. Fantastic quote here:
    “It is a uniquely difficult field to navigate, but there must be a balance between believing the accuser and the presumption that the accused is innocent. It is both logically impossible and vitally important that both of these beliefs be held simultaneously. This is why we must be scrupulous when weighing the evidence in support of either presupposition.”

    However, the final sentence has got me troubled. “Or, more aptly, it is better to risk a guilty man’s reputation remaining untarnished than to risk ruining the life and career of an innocent one.” The author hasn’t made that case. The sentence would seem to suggest that cases with a requisite level of doubt shouldn’t make it to Court. The Justice system is exactly the place where such cases need to be tried. The decision as to whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a sexual assault or rape case rests with the relevant authority (DA in USA, Police Prosecution here in Aus). If a case meets the baseline evidence requirements to be prosecuted, it should be regardless of the potential cost to reputation. The determination of whether that accused is convicted then rests with the Court. If a case against a wrongly accused person has been duly brought notwithstanding such innocence, the cost to the accused’s reputation is a price that must, unfortunately, be paid in the pursuit of due process.

    • Garrett G says

      I agree. I was with him until the last sentence. I see that he was trying to rework Blackstone’s formulation (“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”) for this case, but the judicial system is the correct place for these matters to be decided.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I am also a lawyer and I agree with your assessment of the article.
      The question of whether someone should be put on trial is one that is often difficult. But in this case, after such a long lapse of time and with witnesses contradicting Ford’s story which itself is full of holes, I think any proescution authority would definitely refuse to prosecute.

    • I understand your point here. I think I need to clarify this a bit. I don’t mean to say that evidence should not be examined or a case not taken to trial for fear of tarnishing someone’s reputation. That would be an admittedly horrible take.

      What I mean is that people should try to approach the situation in the same way as the justice system, in that we should avoid labeling someone as guilty until the evidence is sufficient to prove otherwise. Even if there were not enough evidence to warrant a trial, or even if there Were a trial which ended in a verdict of “not guilty,” the average person may treat the accused as if they were the convicted. (In fact, many in the field of moral psychology believe that this widespread “just in case” mentality is an adaptive defense mechanism.)

      My closing line is an argument against this reflexive mentality. The label of “guilty” is a social penalty, and it should be applied only alongside the legal equivalent.

      • Garry A says

        Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Watkins. That being the case, I agree with your sentiments entirely. I suspect the difficulty in language that led to my query is reflective of the difficulty in balancing the competing considerations.

      • Mollie says

        I was also concerned about your claim that ‘it is better to risk a guilty man’s reputation remaining untarnished than to risk ruining the life and career of an innocent one.’ While I agree that it is better to let a guilty person be free than an innocent person put in prison, I am not certain the same holds for reputation. If someone has committed a serious crime, and their reputation and life go incredibly well (for example, they become a supreme court judge), it seems like an injustice has occurred against the victim. And if an innocent person faces a loss in reputation, that does not seem as bad as a loss in basic freedom in prison. For this reason, outside of the courts we might want to shift the burden of proof slightly towards the accused. At least, this is a thought worth considering. I am not sure what I think myself!

        • @ Mollie
          your quote- “If someone has committed a serious crime, and their reputation and life go incredibly well (for example, they become a supreme court judge), it seems like an injustice has occurred against the victim. And if an innocent person faces a loss in reputation, that does not seem as bad as a loss in basic freedom in prison.”

          That is horrible idea. No, I mean it. A truly horrible idea. Because they don’t go to prison; it is open season on slander and libel? As long as the cost isn’t jail, anyone can destroy anyone’s life/career/reputation/family because that is better than having a self-declared victim ‘suffer’? The basic tenants of a democratic society will disintegrate as trust evaporates.

          I wrote a much longer piece below, but frankly here it is:

          Two people have taken positions that can’t both be true; either he did it, or she is lying. We have no way of independently knowing, as no physical evidence (say a video or semen stained dress…) exists, so we rely on witness testimony.

          1) Kavanaugh says it never happened. Mark Judge, the only other person identified to have directly witnessed it says it didn’t happen. Every other person identified (identified by and life-long friends of Ford) as potentially being at the party say they have no recollection of the party even happening, let alone know anything about an assault. The supporting documentation from her therapist either is wrong, or doesn’t support her current story. The accusation changes in ways, whenever necessary, to make sure it remains unprovable and tagged to Kavanaugh. Ford has mislead the United States Senate on why she needed a week to testify.

          2) She says it happened.

          That you believe option 2, over everything else, tells me you are not willing to believe your own lying eyes. Everything else is just fluff to make yourself feel better about it.

    • Indeed. We don’t need to believe old stories without evidence if they are instead reported at the time, when evidence is more likely. Also, not all crimes can be proven, and that’s life. The very notion that all bad things can be prevented, that all bad things are punished, is a utopia, not a reality.

  5. Davis Wrenn says

    Valid points for a criminal proceeding. This is not a criminal proceeding and never has been.

    The Senate needs to see if Kavanaugh has the character and temperament to remain an impartial member of a non-political judiciary. I missed most of Ford’s testimony. She seemed believable if flawed.

    Unfortunately, Kavanaugh disqualified himself from being an impartial judiciary by floating a “leftist conspiracy” without any evidence. In fact Ford’s 2013 medical health records seem to undermine the assertion.

    Kavanaugh’s wild response instilled enough doubt for Flake to call for an FBI investigation to uncover, as you asked for, more evidence. Character testimony, corroborating or expultory witnesses, written communications.

    • “Unfortunately, Kavanaugh disqualified himself from being an impartial judiciary by floating a “leftist conspiracy” without any evidence.”

      Practically the whole dem party is trying to keep this guy from being a judge based on the flmsy testimony of a person who cant find a person to agree with her story. On top of that they have even more flimsy accusation of gang rape (or is it gang rape bystander?). At what point whould you consider something a conspiracy?

      The man’s tempermant is perfectly fine. We all expect for SCOTUS judges to being impartial when judging a a case. I expect no one to be impartial when being accused of gang rape.

    • Jerry W says

      One man’s “wild response” is another man’s “righteous indignation” in the face of very suspicious timing and open opposition by the minority party. Truth is our minds are influenced by our own confirmation bias. Conservatives believe Kavanaugh because they want to believe him and liberals believe Dr Ford because they want to believe her. Show me someone who says they are totally impartial and I will show you someone who is delusional.


    • Agreeable Contrarian says

      “Kavanaugh disqualified himself from being an impartial judiciary by floating a “leftist conspiracy””

      No he didn’t.

      Wow. That was easy…

    • Kavanaugh’s response was a speech for the ages. It wasn’t a leftist conspiracy theory, it is widely known and obvious that the antics of the Dems in the hearings and via their funding of Ms. Ford’s “legal counsel” and their paid activist groups ‘conspired’ to take down this good man because the hate him/us, period. His opening statement will go down in history as one of the greatest repudiation of Marxist tactics and the basis of our (superior) Western society of the 21st century.

    • E. Olson says

      Davis Wren, your comment has unleashed a repressed memory in my sister, and she tells me you raped her 10 to 15 years ago in a city and place she doesn’t remember, but she is absolutely sure it was you. We have contacted the local prosecutor who believes that “women never lie”, and he has promised to put you in prison until you turn to dust. “Somehow” your name has been leaked to the media and your picture with “rapist” caption has been on the front pages. You keep telling everyone that you are totally innocent and have never met my sister, but since “women never lie” your employer has fired you, your wife has ordered you out of the house and is consulting with a divorce lawyer, and your daughter is afraid to be near you and is being viciously bullied at school for having a rapist father. Fortunately you are such a big man you have not gotten the least bit angry just because my sister’s memory was slightly inaccurate, your entire family is destroyed, and you are looking at major legal bills to defend yourself without any income coming in, because that would be showing poor temperament.

      • Well put. The lack of empathy or the inhumanity in condemning kavanaugh betrays the fundamental lack of imagination in so many liberals today, a point made well in National Review. Scary.

    • @ Davis Wrenn,

      This is mostly alot of casting around, throwing shit at the wall, and attempting to see what sticks while attempting to look moderate. It is only the latest version of what the democrats have been doing ever since Kennedy retired. Smears, slander, lies and power plays. This has been nothing more than a lot of people who should know better trying to justify why someone who is completely qualified shouldn’t be confirmed. Most Democratic senators had already declared they were not going to vote for him before the “investigation into his character” began.
      Remember his:
      Ill give you a quote:

      “On the Republican side, witnesses testifying in support of Kavanaugh included longtime friends
      and former law clerks. They talked about his intelligence and open-mindedness, calling him
      “thoughtful,” ”humble,” ”wonderfully warm” and a “fair-minded and independent jurist.” A number
      praised his concerted efforts to hire as law clerks both minorities and women.

      Senate Democrats had worked into the night Thursday on Kavanaugh’s final day of questioning
      in a last, ferocious attempt to paint him as a foe of abortion rights and a likely defender of
      President Donald Trump.

      But the 53-year-old appellate judge stuck to a well-rehearsed script throughout his testimony,
      providing only glimpses of his judicial stances while avoiding any serious mistakes that might
      jeopardize his confirmation.”

      A) what is the point of even holding an ‘investigation’ if you already know you’ll vote against him? That this isn’t a criminal investigation is obvious. That this isn’t a job interview is equally obvious (what job interview starts with 49% of the people interviewing you saying they won’t hire you BEFORE the interview starts?) It was all theater, and until this last second nuclear option, it failed and Kavanaugh was generally seen as a good guy by anyone who ACTUALLY knew him.

      B) Remember Sen Booker’s “Spartacus” moment? Or Sen Harris’s grotesquely edited video that even the Washington Post gave a 4 Pinocchio’s score too?
      I really doubt you do, because I don’t think you care. The Democrats have been lying about him from the very beginning, each trying to out do each other. That you can’t see this is Feinstein showing the youngin’s how you destroy someone is due to your bias, not a lack of trying on the part of the Democrats.

      C) If your going to judge a mans temperament, at least see if his story checks out. What was Kavanaugh ‘angry’ about?

      “When I did at least okay enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.

      Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits.

      When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford’s wishes. And then—and then as no doubt was expected, if not planned—came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.”

      “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

      Go ahead, tell me how this isn’t TRUE. Feinstein had this letter for MONTHS before the hearing. Why isn’t anyone outraged that she didn’t come forward with it in July? Where is the rage that her staff outed her against Fords will? Where is the condemnation of the outright unbelievable lies published in support of this. One lady said she knew of it, even though Ford said she never told anyone. She backtracked her lie. Another said that as an adult college student she repeatedly drove for nearly an hour to attend HS gang-rape parties where boys lined up to have their turn with the poor unsuspecting underage girls who were drugged repeatedly. (isn’t she admitting guilt in child endangerment here????) Total Bullshit. Why shouldn’t someone be angry about this? I would be far more worried if he WASN’T angry. It would mean he is a psychopath who doesn’t feel things like a normal human.

      Finally, to the bullshit point that what we really need is an FBI investigation….. I submit this.

      They have been trying to confirm her story, but every time they try to corroborate any part of her story which is actually verifiable, she changes it. Was it 2 boys or 4? (who cares, they all say it never happened). What house was it? (whoops that can be investigated, better change the floor plan). Did it happen in the mid 1980’s, or 1982? (you forgot the year? If it was really 1982, when she was 15, then of-course she didn’t drive home, she couldn’t. Why does she remember that? That would never have occurred, unless of course she is admitting that she illegally drove underage and while drunk….)

      “The final three contradictions are even more significant because in each circumstance Ford altered her story only after Kavanaugh and Senate investigators had obtained evidence to disprove her original tale. For instance, investigators had obtained statements from Kavanaugh and the two men and one female lifelong friend of Ford’s, and they all denied any recollection of the gathering.”

      Ill leave you with this:

      “It is more important that innocence be protected than it is that guilt be punished, for guilt and crimes are so frequent in this world that they cannot all be punished. But if innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, perhaps to die, then the citizen will say, “whether I do good or whether I do evil is immaterial, for innocence itself is no protection,” and if such an idea as that were to take hold in the mind of the citizen that would be the end of security whatsoever.”

      – John Adams

      How every far we have fallen.

  6. Pingback: On the Fallibility of Memory and the Importance of Evidence | Western Rifle Shooters Association

  7. Hollywood Mark says

    Fascinating article but not relevant to the current situation. The woman and her father apparently are both CIA-related operatives. Think about why John Brennan – former CIA director, would weigh in on such a domestic matter. Her boyfriend testified under oath she coached her girlfriend seeking an intelligence-field related job on how to “beat the machine” slang for tricking the polygraph operator and the polygraph exam – a skill not taught at the Palo Alto/Stanford psychology labs but at the Farm in Williamsburg, VA, aka Camp Peary. Although both universities have extensive historic ties to CIA.
    Sorry for the buzzkill. Good article though.

  8. John Craigton says

    It is a complex situation to draw conclusions, but *not* because memory is vulnerable to distortion. Failure of memory is not really applicable in the current case. Ford was nearly an adult. Also, eye-witness studies are different from the current situation. Ford was not witnessing something that happened somewhere without a clear focus of attention; instead, she was allegedly herself pinned down by her accuser, who she already knew.

    • Her age has nothing to do with memory issues, nor does the idea she had seen the person before. Literally, the article directly addresses these circumstances, and using scientific research, shows why the direct inferences you’re making are flat out not true.

      What’s amazing about this subject is anyone who works with eye witness accounts, including victim testimony, knows we need to be very skeptical about these cases.

      There’s literally nothing else to go on to back up, or corroborate Ford’s claims. We have no way to testing the truthfulness because she can’t remember the date, what year it was, where it took place, how she got home, and she’s been inconsistent about what she heard, who said what, how many people were there, and so on.

      • noOne says

        What I find most interesting in this case is that Ford didn’t try to fill in the blanks to make a complete story. She recounted what she remembered, and said “I don’t remember” for the parts that she didn’t. With respect to research in memory, the issues seem to be associated with people “filling in the blanks” when they don’t remember, or having “time slice” issues (confusing the ordering of events). That doesn’t seem to be the case with Ford, as she isn’t “filling in the blanks” with false memories. Having said that, her credibility is taking a beating (particularly with Trump and his supporters) because she truthfully answered “I don’t remember” when asked these details.

        Regardless of if her particular version of events is perfectly remembered, I think the larger issue here is the credibility of the nominee. While one might be able to “dismiss” a single allegation (Note: This is why women don’t report), multiple allegations along with other instances of dishonestly on the part of the candidate seems to be the larger issue.

        • E. Olson says

          noOne – amazing that the gaps in Ford’s memory are only about the aspects that would allow the checking of the time and place of this alleged event. It is also amazing that apparently Kavanaugh and all the other people at the party had “black-out” drunk episodes on the same night and hence none can remember the party or Ford, and Ford’s friend at the party claims to not even remember meeting Kavanaugh. Good thing Ford only had one beer, otherwise she might not have remembered who almost attempted to rape her. It is also amazing the the “other” women who have accused Kavanaugh of gang rape parties and shoving his penis in her face during a dorm party, seem to be the only people at these parties that have any memory of Kavanaugh – perhaps all the other party participants also had simultaneous “black out” drunk episodes and hence can’t back up the accusers. It’s a good thing that the gang rape witness was able to reconfirm her Kavanaugh memories by attending multiple gang rape parties, and that the penis witness was able to work with journalists over a 6 day period to revive her drunken memory, because otherwise they might have repressed his name and been unable to tell their stories for the first time only 35 years later. You are absolutely correct, however, because these episodes do indeed show a clear pattern.

        • Richard says


          I think you’ve misunderstood the “filling in the blanks” line. It’s not necessarily filling in the blanks of known holes in one’s memory. It’s not explicit like that. It’s a top-down function the brain performs implicitly, without awareness or effort by the person recalling the memory. That Ford admitted she did not remember certain details essentially says nothing of the veracity of the memories she is able to recall. Also, she has had decades to consolidate a solid narrative memory, so holes in her memory now don’t necessarily have any bearing on whether she was unsure of anything in decades past (whether she claims it or not). None of this means her memory is definitely wrong, but it does mean there are significant reasons to doubt her memory.

          As for the multiple allegations, if there had been a history of allegations then this might strengthen the case against Kavanaugh. Given when they are coming up, it is difficult to distinguish them from convenient political tools. This is a “high stakes” situation where some assumptions that might be safely made in a more typical case just cannot be made reasonably.

        • Jay Salhi says

          She did not just fail to remember, she changed her story multiple times.

          For example, the party was originally “near the country club”. Hmm small gathering, only a few attendees, near the country club. Maybe someone should try to identify the house? Well, Senate investigators were doing that. They were asking Kavanaugh’s classmates about the known party houses where Kavanaugh and his bodies used to party. Low and behold, Ford walks back “near the country club” to “between my house and the country club”, a description so vague as to render it meaningless in terms of trying to identify the house.

          She remembers meaningless details like “I only had one beer” but not meaningful details like where and when, how she got there, how she got home, etc. Her memory is highly selective and conveniently vague on points where specificity might allow third parties to verify or discredit her account.

          On the one point where she has been specific (but not consistent), the named attendees do not support her account. Most damning is the fact that Leland Keyser not only does not recall the party but says she never knew Kavanaugh.

          As for the date of the attack:

          2012 couples therapy notes: mid eighties
          2013 individual therapy notes: late teens
          July 6, 2018 text to WP: mid eighties
          July 30, 2018 letter to Feinstein: early eighties
          August 7, 2018 polygraph statement: eighties (she crossed out “early”)
          Sept. 27 testimony: summer of 1982 (age 15)

          And what set all this in motion? After keeping it a secret for 30 years a debate with her husband in 2012 about installation of a second door supposedly let to couples therapy where this was flushed out. Well, she is either lying or has a faulty memory about this detail as well. The remodel started in 2008 and was completed more than two years before couples therapy. And the remodel did not give her an escape exit but rather converted part of their home into a rental property. Ford’s husband makes no mention of the 2 door incident in his affidavit. The second door story is a farce.

          As for the party guests:

          July 30 letter: 4 others were present.”

          August 7 polygraph statement: 4 boys and a couple of girls

          Ford’s lawyer Debra Katz later said in an interview that: there were four guys and one other girl at the party.

          Also, the therapy notes say she was attacked by four boys later this become one boy with a one bystander / helper.

          Any one of these points in isolation, one might be able to overlook. But collectively, the account has too many holes. It is not credible. And the above is not an exhaustive list of all the problems in her story.

  9. martti_s says

    Dr. Ford, being a professor of psychology, mos certainly is aware of the weaknesses of the human memory. Why does she not see her own biases is strange as is the fact that she clearly knows what polygraphy is and what it isn’t. Still she goes ahead with her patchy story that keeps on changing and with the polygraph there to back it up. I find her very, very strange.

    Her audience is stranger still, legislators and lawyers who kick the basic principles of fair game out of the door and start an emotional drama where feelings get the most important part and facts none. Are these people really apt to function as the representatives of the American people? If ‘yes’ so much worse for the American people.

    We see the tactics of campus activists now in use in the Congress.
    Anything goes: The Right sees the ghost of Soros behind the chaos, others are crying privileges male patriarchy and #memetoo!. What is going on there, how did it get so out of hand?

    How come the hearing of Dr. Ford turns into a therapy session whereas Kavanaugh has to face the direst ad hominem attacks that come from beyond reasonable? How can this be?
    What is evident is that the brain rot of the Campus activists and the Hollywood virtue signalers has infected the lawmakers of the United states.
    The country deserves Donald Trump and more: Shock therapy and brain transplant.

    • Peter Kriens says

      Though I share some of your concerns, a revolution rarely gets us in a better place. Opposing something gets you a lot of friends that also hate that same thing but then ruling together invariable turns into a disaster. We need to find a way to talk to each other again. After all, I think almost all want things to be better. Modern is the virtue, not letting anger get the better of you.

  10. Peter Kriens says

    A very good example of false accusations is the Gomesh case, who caused Ian Buruma to be fired. Read the transcripts of the court case of 3 women that accused him of violence. They make chilling reading.

    Two of the three colluded, they sent 5000 mails between each other. The judge was extremely harsh to the accusers and accusing them of lying and colluding. He was acquitted of all three charges. (He made a peace bond with a 4th accuser, which does not imply admitting guilt.)

    Still, in the public press he is still so guilty that alone opening his mouth causes the chief editor of the publication to lose his voice.


  11. Mark Beal says

    Nobody outside of the people concerned knows exactly what happened, if indeed anything did happen.

    What makes me highly suspicious of the accusations is the rhetoric of many on the left, that somehow their very existence is threatened by Trump/Kavanaugh. This is essentially a war mindset – my enemy must be destroyed, lest my enemy destroy me. Such a mindset legitimates any means necessary to destroy the enemy and win the war.

    It’s difficult to see this ending well.

  12. Circuses and Bread says

    This is a very interesting article on memory. As regards the Kavanaugh case though, the issue isn’t memory of the alleged participants. The issue is one of politics, the accumulation and wielding of power. And as we’ve seen so many times, otherwise reasonable people seem to turn into amoral scuzzballs when politics enters the equation.

    These accusations wouldn’t see the light of day but for the fact that there is a Supreme Court nomination at stake. If this was “Joe Sixpack” being accused, neither prosecutors nor civil attorneys would touch it with a ten foot pole. No physical evidence, 30 year old memories, not a winning case. Notwithstanding the fact that any statute of limitations would have tolled long ago.

    • Jack B Nimble says

      @Circuses and Bread

      I agree with your first paragraph, but your second paragraph ignores the facts that Kavanaugh isn’t any Joe Sixpack and the Senate proceedings are not a criminal OR a civil case. He is a judge with lifetime tenure who is being considered for the highest court in the US, again with lifetime tenure.

      There is evidence that Kavanaugh was less than truthful in his recent testimony before the Senate panel. Kavanaugh–in the case of Ali vs. Obama–has himself used the legal principle that ‘false statements made to make the defendant look good or innocent were a sign of guilt,’ according to former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega. So the issue is not what happened 30 years ago as such, but whether he is lying about his past to make himself look good. That behavior should be disqualifying for any candidate for a judgeship.

      • It’s a large leap to suggest his memory of events 35 years ago are perfect. He said as a kid he drank too much (had too many beers), did stupid things, and he provided his own calendar which showed he drank a lot.

        He drank a lot 35 years ago, which the majority of kids in college in the 80’s did (and probably the 60’s, 70’s, 90’s, and recently too). And, because he didn’t flat out state he blacked out or whatever, that he’s perjuring himself?

        That’s not plausible.

      • Bill says

        Here we go again “OMG! LIFETIME TENURE!!!” Really? So why are all the Dems saying they’re going to impeach him if he’s seated and they win back the House/Senate in November? If they can impeach, as they are saying in their play for power and $$s, then it isn’t a lifetime tenure now is it?

        So can we ask the GOP led House and Senate to start impeachment proceedings for Sotomayor, Kagan, and Ginsberg now? I”m sure we can dig up something colorful from their past, even if unsubstantiated in anyway.

      • Circuses and Bread says

        @jack b nimble

        Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you addressed the issue of lifetime appointment to the highest court and I’d like to follow up on that.

        But first, let me address the behavior issue. Re-reading my post, I can see how you could get the impression that I support Judge K. Shame on me, and thanks for calling me out on it. Judge K is a politician. And while I suppose there are some good and virtuous politicians out there, we shouldn’t expect to find virtue in politics any more than we should expect to find chastity in a whorehouse.

        With regards to the lifetime appointment to the highest court, therein lies one of many problems with our national politics. Policy issues are not so much what’s being debated. Instead our political factions are in a grand contest to see who gets to appoint one or two or three unelected justices who make the meaningful policy decisions.

        • Will says

          Except, they are not supposed to be making “the meaningful policy decisions.” They are not supposed to make policy, only determine whether the laws made by the legislature are constitutional. I.E do not infringe on our natural rights, many of which are enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
          That is the problem with the left, they think the courts should be used to “make policy.”

  13. Wells Marvel says

    Valid research, but none of this applies to Ford. We’re not talking about a child being question led, or the memory games present in a controlled experiment. This is someone who knew their attacker prior in a social setting. Not a stranger; not someone attacked in the dark.

    • Law enforcement, those who defend the accused, and pretty much anyone who has worked with witness accounts knows the issues with memory described in the article are real. This is not a secret, or controversial. It doesn’t apply just to children, or to people who are familiar with their alleged accuser.

      The only time anyone disputes this stuff is when they have a political motivation.

    • Chester Draws says

      And you didn’t read it. Or rather you didn’t like the facts about memory, so you’re going to ignore them.

      Ford may have been assaulted at a party. Kavanaugh may have been present.

      But she may have forgotten that she was drinking, slowly lowering the amount over the years. Kavanaugh may have moved from being present to being the prime mover. The assault may have been upgraded in severity over the years.

      Her current memory isn’t necessarily the truth, without it being a lie.

      That’s how the mind works. It doesn’t, can’t, remember the exact truth. Thirty odd years later it plays tricks.

      But that gets in the way of the black/white either he’s lying or she is. And that won’t do if you need to defame him.

      Anything that gets in the way. Like what we know about memory, has to be jettisoned. That it is true isn’t important if the feels are wrong.

      It’s all about Roe vs Wade. If K was pro-abortion this simply wouldn’t be happening. He’s qualified, which is why he survived that part. But he might be the swing vote, and for the Dems that Trump’s all other considerations.

      He has to go. How is irrelevant.

    • Dennis says

      I can tell you didn’t read the entire article. Start from the beginning and go all the way to the end. It addresses everything you just said. Unless you had already started forming a counterargument right at the beginning and your mind was focused on that for the rest of the article

  14. ga gamba says

    Progressives today on uni students’ antics including violent attacking people: “It’s kids being kids. Nothing to see here”. Progressives today on people throwing conniptions, rioting in the streets, and looting: “It’s justified.” Yet, when unsubstantiated allegations of almost four decades ago (about two generations) of a then teenager emerge: “It’s completely believable. He must be held to account.” That the same teenager has had an unblemished adult life for decades is of no importance at all. “It’s a job interview. He doesn’t have the temperament.” What middle-age adult has a job interview that reviews their teenaged life in an adversarial manner and smear and lies? Video shows Yvette Felarca punching people in front of the police: “She’s a good teacher. Don’t suspend her.” Professors and journalists declaring their support for abuse and genocide: “It’s a joke.”

    I hope Kavanaugh is appointed. And I pray he makes progressives miserable for the next four decades. Screw them.

      • homeless wristwatch says

        “Someone’s found Ga Gamba’s button.”

        I know right? Why would somebody get upset over a man being burned at the stake in the public square on the uncorroborated word of a woman who freely discusses her lifelong mental illness?

        It’s America. That’s just how we roll!

        • josh says

          By “being burned at the stake” I take it you mean, “being subject to investigation for a serious crime, which could potentially derail his grossly partisan nomination to one of the highest offices in the land”?

          • homeless wristwatch says


            “being subject to investigation for a serious crime, which could potentially derail his grossly partisan nomination to one of the highest offices in the land”?

            Nope. You are very bad at taking my meaning. In fact, I think you are deliberately misconstruing my meaning to distract from the shameful pillory of the man. I have never seen an anonymous poster on the internets do this before. I will try to nap and recover directly after this, because I am shocked at this treatment.

            He was not investigated for a crime. The Senate does not investigate crimes, as senators have mentioned more than a few times. The FBI didn’t investigate him either. It’s a background check. Like the other six he received. Which turned up jack schultz wrong … ever. Even substance abuse problems, which they DO ask everyone you know about. I’ve been party to an FBI background check. Those guys are THOROUGH to the point of embarrassment. The idea that Kavanaugh was a weekend rapist and they wouldn’t know is preposterous.

            He COULD have been investigated for a crime … if Ford had filed a police report with the local force where the crime allegedly occurred (because it’s local police who investigate drunken teenage alleged almost-rapes). But Ford didn’t file a report. Not then. Not now. Maybe because the real police would have asked Ford to provide some SHRED of corroborating evidence or witness, and when she couldn’t, would have shelved it, and she wouldn’t have gotten to tell the world her tale of woe.

            All presidential nominations are partisan, because the presidency is a partisan office. There are no degrees of partisan, and certainly no “gross” level.

            In America Supreme Court judges do not hold “office.” They hold “seats.”

            No, investigation was not the point here. Process-free judgement was the point, and boy did Ford get what Ford wanted. Now we all pay the bill.

          • josh says

            @homeless wristwatch

            As flailing nitpicks go, I give you an A for effort but D in execution. “Investigate” is a common English word, it doesn’t mean “only a formal criminal investigation”. You can google the actual meanings if you’re confused. Both the Senate and the FBI have attempted, however half-heartedly, to investigate an allegation. The allegation is about a serious crime called attempted rape and/or sexual assault.

            Background checks are not magic, six of them didn’t turn up Ford’s allegations, or those of the other women, they therefore have no bearing on the claims in question.

            I agree, it would have been ideal if Ford had gone on record at the time of the alleged crime. Your claim that police couldn’t find a shred of evidence at the time is baseless. We simply don’t know what could have been turned up. Thirty plus years later we only know that her story is consistent and his description of himself was dishonest.

            The claim that there are no degrees of partisanship is one of the more ludicrous I’ve ever seen. The Republicans, without justification or precedent, delayed Garland’s nomination until they could kill it, then when serious questions about Kavanaugh’s background arose, have tried everything to rush through his appointment. That is grossly partisan.

            “In America Supreme Court judges do not hold ‘office.’ They hold ‘seats.’ ”

            I’m sorry this is too rich 🙂

            Article III of the US Constitution, Section I:

            “The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

            And after all that hot air you still didn’t manage to explain how I misunderstood your hyperbolic pity-fest for a man who may be a rapist but is certainly a liar.

      • ga gamba says

        You’d better believe I’ve got button.

        The American public, and the wider world for that matter, were invited by the Democrats to witness a lynching. It was not to view the hearing as an opportunity to weigh the evidence because… there was no corroborating evidence to back up Ford’s accusation and a large amount that contradicts it. The people Ford named as witnesses denied, in sworn testimony, attending the party or seeing the assault. Democrats flung evidence-free accusations of gang rape at Kavanaugh, whilst descending into farcical questions about his drinking beer, his high-school yearbook, his indecent exposure, and his throwing of ice. ‘Cuz drunken ice throwing is a component of rape culture, don’t ya know? Events that happened almost 40 years ago. By teenagers. The only charge that stuck was he’s a white fella who came from a wealthy family, so he benefited from the privilege of his situational placement.

        That Kavanaugh responded with anger to this Kafkaesque circus not only was justified, it proved his sanity. Only the insane would sit calmly through the maelstrom that turned his life upside down, inside out, and back to front. I read and hear quite often men need to ‘get in touch with their feelings’. Well done to Kavanaugh for doing so.

        But perhaps ‘get in touch with their feelings’ is code meaning comply with progressives’ demands and profess one’s guilt in performances to entertain the inquisitors.

    • That “its just a job interview” is probably the most whacko idea that can be expressed. Ive been to plenty of job interviews. Not a single one involved a Senate Judiciary hearing and dragging my entire professional reputation through the mud. Nor did any potential employer care how much I drank in the most ratchet years of my life (a lot, if you are curious, and I, too, have never ‘blacked out’).

      • Just Me says


        No, but employers use much more subtle ways of getting at much less obvious character failings, none of which can you even contest.

        • “No, but employers use much more subtle ways of getting at much less obvious character failings, none of which can you even contest.”

          Yeah, like background checks. Kav has passed, what, like 7 now?

          If had such serious “character flaws” they would have come out by now.

          • Just Me says

            I have tried to let this past, but I CANNOT!

            I cannot sleep while somebody has said something wrong on the Internet, uncorrected.

            Prepare for my far-middle-slightly-left-of-centrist boot of correction to go full five fathom up your corn hole.

            Below, you will find my correction of each and every one of you. Everyone else may respond one at a time. Please do not post anything further until I have destroyed your first loaf of wrongness. If you are particularly wrong, I will respond to you in haiku.

            When I have unhorsed you all, I will have RESPECT! You will all use documented sources and evidence on chat sections and stop your lying. I will be checking back often, because–while I do have a most awesome life–I have sacrificed it to police you bunch.

            You probably think I’m an almighty prick, but it’s for your own good. Like a drill sergeant, you will thank me later for turning you into soldiers of the mind. Now … let it begin!

          • ga gamba says

            For those of you who have never undergone a government background check, in particular a full-field one, it involves a very lengthy questionaire going through your places of residence, your schools, who you are/were friends with (especially if they were foreigners or criminals), your family, your finances, your vices, and many other aspects on your life. With this info investigators then go around and talk to people who knew you to corroborate those details with a goal to find discrepancies. “What, if anything, is being hidden?” Don’t think you can hide certain people from your past because the investigators ask your pals for names of associates too, so people who were left off your questionaire are identified and given a closer look by the investigators to figure out why they were omitted. The scale of the investigation for federal justices is broad and deep because the job is deemed a “High-Sensitive” position, so not only are checks done prior to employment, they are also conducted periodically. “High-Sensitive” positions are reinvestigated every 5 years, which is akin to a top secret clearance held by those in the military and the intelligence services.

            You’re not told who is and isn’t interviewed, which allows people, including those who have misgivings, to speak frankly. “Kavanaugh is my friend from school, but he had drinking problems and raped women.”

            After all of this is gathered then personal interviews are conducted with the subject of the investigation. This may include a polygraph. The people conducting these are not amateurs. They often have more info about you, and in greater detail, than you have remembrances of. Your answers are recorded and further investigation is conducted. “Youthful indiscretions” such as underage drinking, smoking cannabis, and even scuffles that didn’t involve police are not suitability disqualifiers unless they were frequent occurrences or they are connected to more serious problems.

            A person who’s undergone numerous background checks has provided so much info and has been so closely scrutinised that disqualifying reasons would most likely have come to light. For short-listed SCOTUS nominees, a pre-nomination evaluation of judicial candidates is performed jointly by staff in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice. Candidate finalists also undergo another confidential background investigation by the FBI (remember, most often the finalist is a lower court official who has been subject to subject to previous investigations) and an independent evaluation by a committee of the American Bar Association. A person in the hot seat such as Kavanaugh gets the extra special going over, and not only by the government officials such as the FBI but also by the major news organisations and NGO/activists that have the resources to hire private investigators to dig up dirt.

      • OleK says


        But has Kavanaugh’s professional reputation even been invoked? How the heck did he even get into his present Court of Appeals position if he had a bad professional reputation? No, nothing about regarding his professional career (or should I say very little) has been discussed. It’s all about some supposed mischief in HS and maybe college. As you say – some job interview!

        • Just Me says

          Attempted violent rape is “some mischief”? Wow!

          • E. Olson says

            Just Me – Have you ever heard of a man who has rape on his mind, who is described by the “victim” as making an active attempt at rape and scaring the heck out of her, who is pushed off the victim by a laughing friend before any clothes are removed, who easily lets the victim escape to a nearby bathroom, who then laughingly leaves the victim/witness to his “crime” and wanders back down to the party, and who lets the “victim” leave the party with no further altercation? The “victim” describes no bruises or scratches, no torn clothes, no penetration of any kind. Does that really sound like violent rape?

        • @Olek

          No, it hasnt been invoked. Thats what makes the accusation that “he isnt fit for the SCOTUS because he got angry at being falsly accused of rape” nonsense. No one has pointed to him acting bad during his previous positions. But not that he had an emotional reation he is seen as “unfit.”

          Its a garbage take.

    • Matthew B says

      I am also disgusted with the double standard and disgusted that the media is so complicit with it.

      • ga gamba says

        Shootfire, you’re right. I failed to mention kicking my boot up people’s corn holes like a more reasonable commentator here. Shucks.

        Live and learn.

    • @ga gamba

      Not for nothing, I always look forward to seeing your comments. This one was as nailed-on correct as is humanly possible.

  15. Antonio says

    (Sorry for English, I write from Italy)

    I hope someone more rational then Watkins will write something about this case. Maybe explaning the absurdity of all the others alligation against Kavanaugh. Maybe considering the suffering that the lefties inflicted to Kavanaugh’s family.

    The yearbook!!! The flaulence!!! The ice cube!!! It isn’t possible don’t talk about the ashaming alligation. Quillette, don’t be afraid of the Truth. In this case there are not two postmodernist truth. There is an horrible liar (and many bad people) and a martyr (Kavanaug)

    • Circuses and Bread says

      @ Antonio

      ( mi scusi. Mi Italiano e malissimo. Sono Americano)

      La politica e Pane e Circe. Questo e il circo grandissimo, Con pagliacci.

  16. Just Me says

    This is a mess with faults on both sides.

    Ford is credible, it is normal to only remember emotionally salient facts, not irrelevant detail, years later.

    Would the case stand up in a court of law? Probably not, as the presumption of innocence would prevail.

    But this is not a court of law, it is a job interview for a to position, and Kavanaugh’s reaction was un professional and unworthy of someone applying for that position. That alone should disqualify him.

    If he was innocent, he should have demanded a full enquiry, not tried to prevent one.

    • How dare he get angry at being falsely accused of gang rape and have his entire professional reputation questioned at a accusation with no evidence!

      Everyone knows that if you are falsely accused of a crime it is your job to call the FBI on yourself to show that you are innocent! Its not like Dr Ford could have went to the Maryland police at anypoint within the last 30+ years and had a full, unlimited investigation. No, Kavanaugh must call the FBI to inviestigate himself even though the flimsy accusation isnt a federal crime! Thats the only way to conduct a job interview, after all.

      • Just Me says

        rounded –

        Somehow she managed to stay calm although she was also under terrible pressure.

        There is a difference between getting upset, even angry, but restraining yourself, and lashing out the way he did. For a professional, a judge, whose work depends on being able to remain calm and unemotional.

        He responded the way a violent man does when confronted. Not good.

        No one is saying he should have called the FBI on himself, but he should have welcomed a full enquiry to clear his name.

        And the fact Ford did not press criminal charges before is probably because, among other things, the attempted rape failed, so it would have been he said, she said, and she just wanted to move forward with her life…until he popped up as candidate for the Supreme Court.

        • “Somehow she managed to stay calm although she was also under terrible pressure.”

          Terrible pressure. Sure. A woman calmly asking her why she flys so much while also being afraid to fly. Thats totes like being accused of gang rape and sexual assualt for several weeks on national tv.

          “There is a difference between getting upset, even angry, but restraining yourself, and lashing out the way he did. For a professional, a judge, whose work depends on being able to remain calm and unemotional.”

          Bullshit. His *work* depends on remaining calm and unemotional. He has no reason to be calm an unemotional whilse being falsly accused of serious crimes. He was a saint considering the circumstances.

          “He responded the way a violent man does when confronted. Not good.”

          He responded the way a vilent man does by… not being violent. 10-4.

          “And the fact Ford did not press criminal charges before is probably because, among other things, the attempted rape failed, so it would have been he said, she said, and she just wanted to move forward with her life”

          Its not that she didnt press charges. Its that when she decided to come out with it she did so by getting a lawyer and demnding and FBI investigate rather than have the local authorities, who jurisdiction it actually is, to investigate.They spent forever demending that the FBI investigate when they could have just filed with the local authorities the whole time. Of course, even with the FBI investigation its still only he said she said. Or rather, He said, she said and her supposeded witnesses said “I dont corroborate.”

          “…until he popped up as candidate for the Supreme Court.”

          But being a federal judge all this time was peachy.

          • Just Me says

            “when she decided to come out with it she did so by getting a lawyer and demanding and FBI investigate rather than have the local authorities, who jurisdiction it actually is, to investigate”

            She did nothing of the sort. She did NOT press charges, then or now. She wrote a letter which she wanted to remain confidential, but it got leaked and she was dragged into this circus. She had no desire to lay criminal charges and put him in prison, then or now, and she wasn’t out to get revenge, then or now.

            She just was appalled at the though a man like that would become Supreme Court Justice, that is why she spoke out now.


            How do you think he would treat an accused who reacted that way in his court? He would be accused of contempt of court.

            Someone who can stay calm under pressure for his work can stay calm in other circumstances. He either deliberately chose the strategy of going ballistic, or he can’t control his emotions. Either bad judgement or bad temperament.


            He couldn’t be physically violent, but he was verbally violent, and I’m not talking about microaggressions here.

            Extremely inappropriate.

  17. Bill says

    Very good read! Thanks.
    Just one point, slightly OT, even if he groped her this would be some 30 years ago. Should we be that vindictive?
    I for myself could not throw the first stone …

  18. I don’t feel like its reasonable to believe Dr. Ford once you get all the facts as known to date. At least not reasonable to believe it was Mr. Kavanaugh. I’m tired of dancing around this whole thing. Here is the order of believablilty to me: 1)Lied 2)Mistaken Identity 3)these memories were inserted into her through therapy. Notice Brett Kavanaugh raping her is not listed. Why should she lie argument was dealt with masterfully today by Kevin Williamson.

  19. Just Me says

    Think back to an emotional event in your life – maybe you were bullied, got in a fight and got betwen up, was publicly humiliated, a friend betrayed you, etc.

    You remember the emotionally relevant event, but do you remember the irrelevant details, like the date, day of the week, exact time, who else was around, what you had been doing earlier in the day, how you got there and back, etc.?

    I doubt it. You remember the emotionally salient parts. That’s how memory works.

    • OleK says

      @Just Me

      Did you even READ the Quillette article or just the title and jump to the comments section?

      • E. Olson says

        OleK – Just Me doesn’t need any stupid article to tell him/her anything – (s)he already knows everything about memory and violent rape and judicial temperament. Probably has a PhD in feminist studies – what more do you need to pass judgment?

    • Richard says

      Generally, you remember the emotionally relevant…emotions. Like remembering that a joke was soooo funny, but not remembering the actual joke. Or, in a traumatic experience, you may remember the most salient feature, such as remembering that a gun was pointed at you, but not being able to recall the gunman’s face or details about the environment. Beyond that, the validity of memory is pretty variable. Obviously, many memories people have are accurate, at least in their salient details. But, many memories are not accurate. Without corroborating evidence, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine accuracy. Memory also varies between individuals. It would be helpful if we had a history of the recollection accuracy of Ford over many years, but that’s not a reasonable thing to expect outside of an experimental paradigm. Even then, we would only have a hypothetically highly accurate likelihood ratio predicting whether she would remember accurately, which is not the same as evidence that this particular memory is accurate. Still, it could lend credibility to Ford’s recollection.

      Instead, we have to base our analysis on what is known about human memory in general, and the relevant research suggests there is significant reason to doubt Ford’s memory (though also to believe it, depending on which way you throw the benefit of the doubt). If Kavanaugh had a history of sexual harassment, even unreported (e.g. if former clerks were coming out of the woodwork with stories of his inappropriate behavior), it would be easier to believe these allegations. Instead, we have someone who seems to have had a pretty normal, even exemplary, professional life. With that as a starting point, these allegations don’t seem strong enough to move my Bayesian-esque judgement into “yeah, there’s a good chance he did it” territory.

  20. Just Me says

    Did you actually try the memory exercise I suggested, or do you want to avoid doing it?

    Yes, I read it, and I have a psych and sociology background and am familiar with the literature already, and others have addressed how it does not apply here.

  21. Farris says

    It is anyone’s prerogative who witnessed Dr. Ford’s testimony to deem her believable. But it is simply undeniable that her account lacked credence. There is no corroboration of her account, persons she named as present at the party dispute or contradict her account, she can not provide a time frame beyond 1982, she is unsure of the location. I’m unclear on why no one appears to have tried to narrow the time frame. At one point she narrowed the time frame to the summer of 1982.
    For instance:
    Q: Did your family go on vacation that summer?
    Q: If yes, Did this incident occur before or after that vacation?
    If No, try to find another event she recalls from that summer and ask if the incident occurred before or after?
    As it stands now her testimony is insufficient for even a grand jury to indict. There is no date or narrow time frame for the allegation. She says the incident occurred with in a twenty mile radius of her home. If a county line must be crossed in that radius, then venue could be undetermined. As a appoint of reference the victims in the Scottsboro Boys case had more corroboration than Dr. Ford.
    Whether her testimony is a false memory or a lie is irrelevant. Her lack of detail is insufficient to allow a potential defendant the opportunity or ability to defend himself. Mr. Kavanaugh can not prove a negative (he can not prove something did not occur) but he could refute the details if there were any.

    • Just Me says

      Why should she remember what events happened before or after her family’s vacation? They were not emotionally salient as unconnected with the event.

      She remembers what was emotionally salient. That is what makes memories stick.

      I agree it should be insufficient for criminal charges, and had K. reacted professionally, admitted it could have, etc., I would have said, fine. But the way he reacted was just appalling, and disqualifies him, as over 1,000 lawyers so far are claiming.

      His reaction was disgraceful.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Let’s see your reaction when you are repeatedly accused of attempted rape, flashing, and gang rape in public before millions of people with no evidence provided whatsoever to prove the accusations and also have your wife and children repeatedly threatened with violence including rape, knowing that if you do not erupt you will be called a stone-cold psychpath and a violent psychotic if you do, and guilty in either case. The only outcome the Democrats want is victory, not just over Kavanaugh, but over Trump and the people who voted for him, so that they can rule forever and a day as is their right and just due. AND I DISLIKE TRUMP A LOT!

        • Just Me says

          “I was provoked” is no excuse for going into a violent, accusatory rant, just as it is no excuse to lose your temper and get physically violent.

          • McFly says

            And this is why Scott Adams says, correctly, that we’re watching completely different movies on the same screen.

            You saw a “violent, accusatory rant,” while I saw an impassioned defense of one’s own honor and integrity.

            This is the pickle we’re in. There’s no common ground. No room for compromise.

            You lose. Or, I lose.

            Which, sucks for me, because your team seems to be all too willing to lie, cheat and steal… for the greater good, of course.

            Then again, I’m betting your team eats itself before my team can be re-educated out of existence, so…

          • cheester says

            Ah, the classic left-wing technique of abusing the English language to inflate their rhetoric. “Violent” rant? Apparently, trying to tear someone’s life apart with a completely unsubstantiated accusation that has been refuted by practically everyone the MSM has reached out to as part of a political hit job isn’t something we should condemn. Nothing to see there. But standing up for yourself and calling out the disingenuous, malicious tactics of the Democrats and Ford suddenly makes you “violent”. Gotcha. One standard for Just Me (and those he agrees with), one standard for thee.

            Also, on the topic of emotional salience: how does that factor in to all the regular flying she did when she claimed to have an intense fear of flying? I guess all those trips weren’t emotionally salient. Oh wait! Poor thing, she must have blacked out from fear and lost those memories every time she flew, leaving her with only the vague, yet emotionally salient, memory of her phobia.

            Who needs facts when we have feelings, double standards and ever-shifting goal posts?

          • E. Olson says

            Wow – I guess I missed the video of Kavanaugh jumping over the bench and punching China Girl Feinstein in the face, punching Vietnam veteran Blumenthal in the stomach, and all that other physical violence before he was subdued by the Senate Police. Just Me, could you please send a link to the video, because such violence would definitely change my mind about this case.

          • Circuses and Bread says


            I’m more optimistic. The disgust level with politics continues to rise. Political indifference has long been one our strengths. We don’t vote, we don’t march, we don’t show up. Every demagogue or crackpot revolutionary needs a parade to lead. Americans have an uncanny knack of finding something better to do with their time.

            While I doubt anti politics per se will become a major cultural force, I do think some form of it will have influence in the future.

          • Just Me says

            McFly –

            I’m not on anyone’s team. I support Quilllette and Jordan Peterson and the Dark Web and rational debate, and am against partisan ideologues, that’s why I’m here.

            Nice job jumping to conclusions about me based on my opinion on this one incident.

          • McFly says


            Much has been written this week about how this entire disgraceful episode has backfired on the Dems; their enthusiasm is in decline while Republicans are getting more and more fired up.

            Contextually, the reunification of the Right is happening because it has become too clear to too many who may have wished to wallow in a little indifference for a bit that the Left isn’t going to make that possible. Indifference IS submission, at this point.

            The knives are out, and they will cut you on the basis of it being an expedient means to an end. They will stab you in the chest, while your children watch and then claim your corpse is the moral high ground on which they alone righteously stand.

            No, I think the very fact that Donald Trump is president suggests a massive shift away from indifference. For a lot of voters, Donald Trump was a weapon — the only weapon available with which to strike back at a political system that began serving it’s own interests at the expense of the People’s.

            The lines have been drawn, and even the people who would rather not pick sides are being forced to. And when something as fundamental as the presumption of innocence is under attack, maybe it’s time to pick sides.

          • McFly says

            Just Me —

            What I see is I your comments is what I see on CNN when I walk into the reception area: Partisan talking points. Fair enough. But simply claiming not to be a partisan doesn’t magically mean you can’t possibly come across as one. Because you are.

            There’s nothing rational about characterizing his remarks or conduct in the hearing as “violent.” Doing so has become necessary in the final, failed effort to kill his nomination, and it’s transparently dishonest.

          • Chip says

            @Just Me

            “no excuse to lose your temper and get physically violent”

            By “physically violent”, you mean “emotionally wrought”, correct? I didn’t hear of him punching out Senator Frankenstein.

            I find it fascinating that so many seem to be so scandalized by a man getting upset and raising his voice. When did Americans become such utter weenies? The yanks used to have fistfights in the congress on occasion, as I recall.

            I was watching an episode of the American animated comedy show “South Park.” They made the observation that political correctness is verbal gentrification, an effort to cover up and push ugliness out of view, without fixing underlying issues.

            I was struck by that idea. Are we stomping on people who let slip a slur, or tell a woman she has a nice bum, or raise voices in indignation above acceptable levels because we are utterly failing at addressing so many real issues? Like killing a witch when a tribe can’t seem to contain an epidemic of disease? It seems to be a sad human pattern.

          • Circuses and Bread says


            Thanks for the reply.

            Your response was in a way remarkably similar to what I see from the more strident elements of the left faction. Overheated hyperbole like “they’ll stab you in the chest while your children watch” really doesn’t work very well. Were this another forum I’d be sorely tempted to post and repost that comment as an example of the sort of wild views that politics seems to attract.

            I did find the discussion of the reunification of the right faction interesting. If we’re stuck the current political factions, and we likely are for the time being, then I would prefer that they be more or less evenly matched. And I don’t think that’s been the case until these last few years.

            As for picking political sides. Perhaps I haven’t made it clear. My team are the guys wearing the antipolitical jerseys. We’re the ones who believe that politics doesn’t work in the first place.

          • ga gamba says

            verbally violent

            going into a violent, accusatory rant

            I’m not on anyone’s team. I support Quilllette and Jordan Peterson and the Dark Web and rational debate, and am against partisan ideologues, that’s why I’m here.

            I’m calling shenanigans on the claim of supporting Jordan Peterson, the Dark Web, and rational debate because “words are violence” are not part of their lexicon. It would be like Pol Pot singing the praises of free enterprise.

      • Just Me says

        E.OLson –

        There is such a thing as being verbally violent, or verbally abusive, it does not mean physically violent, by definition.

        “Definition of verbal abuse : harsh and insulting language directed at a person” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

        • E. Olson says

          Just Me – you tell me there is such a thing as “verbal violence” and then give me a dictionary definition of “verbal abuse”? Does being falsely accused of rape, gang rape, and indecent exposure on national TV count as verbal violence?

      • Chip says

        @Just Me

        “the way he reacted was just appalling, and disqualifies him, as over 1,000 lawyers so far are claiming”

        That gave me a great laugh! Thank you. I happen to interact with a lot of lawyers professionally, and the idea that they are somehow moral arbiters of some sort is a lot of fun.

        They are people just like you and me, no more, and sometimes far, far less. Like Thomas Jefferson said, I’d trust the moral sense of 1,000 farmers or construction workers first.

        Lawyers have a reputation as moral contortionists for a reason.

  22. Kristina says

    On suggestibility, I wonder if recent media coverage of sexual assault/harassment are working as suggesters. Say a person hears a story about sexual assault/harassment. The person then goes back to remember his/her own experience, but the reconstruction of the memory occurs in light of the recent story about sexual assault. Does this make it more likely the person will reconstruct the memory to include more details of assault? In short, can the media coverage of sexual assault suggest a more severe assault than actually occurred?

  23. Farris says

    I’m curious did you think Justice Ginsburg lacked judicial temperament when she endorsed Hillary Clinton and denigrated President Trump?
    “The Code of Conduct for U.S. judges states that a judge shall not “make speeches for a political organization or candidate, or publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for public office,”
    It sure looks like Ginsburg violated that provision. The code also insists that judges avoid “impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities.” Technically, the code does not apply to the Supreme Court, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has assured us that he and his fellow justices follow it.”

    • Just Me says

      Yes, also disgraceful.

      I am a moderate centrist pragmatist, not an ideologue, a ferocious defender of free speech, anti alt-Left identity politics, etc.

      I get attacked from both sides, the Left accuses me of being a Conservative, the Right accuses me of being Liberal, but I’m used to it, so fire away…:-)

      • Farris says

        “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
        The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
        Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,“

      • Circuses and Bread says


        I’ll bet that the slings and arrows are very predictable as well. If you say “A” the reaction will be “B.” Cultists like to chant mantras.

        With antipolitics, it’s a different reaction. Usually you get silence. Every now and then you’ll get an straightforward question. Or, rarely, some spluttering outrage.

      • @Just Me, I also identify as a centrist pragmatist and want to applaud you for your patience and persistence in responding to your critics. I tried something similar in the comment sections of several other recent articles but ultimately decided I was wasting my time. Although Quillette’s articles are often balanced and thought-provoking, its comment sections seem to attract close-minded ideologues like the always unpleasant E. Olson. Perhaps there’s a silent majority of reasonable moderates who reject the extremist positions and deranged rhetoric of both SJWs and anti-SJWs. Thanks for representing the rest of us!

        • Circuses and Bread says


          You should still comment and I hope you’ll choose to do so. Keep in mind that online discussion and debate is less about the participants and more about the (usually silent) audience. It’s important I think to stake out our claims on these oases of sanity, if for no other reason than to remind people that they exist. To remind them that not everyone who comments on political issues is a hyper-partisan howler.

          That your oasis is “centrist pragmatism” isn’t so important as it is how you comport yourself in defending it. I happen to disagree with your choice, but I’d be wrong and a fool to launch attacks on you for it.

    • Chip says

      I did as you said.

      Now I’m not reading The Atlantic anymore. I try to read both sides, but there is a line. The Atlantic is joining The New York Times and the Washington Post on the “I already know what they’re gonna say” pile. Have to get my not-crazy left-leaning viewpoints elsewhere.

      What a weenus.

    • I’m not familiar with the science, so I have to defer to others. Are you saying the science presented here is inaccurate or misleading? If so, do you have any references we could take a look at (more than a simplistic “this is garbage”)?

      As for the article you point to, I’ve actually read it several times over the last couple days. It was recommended by a friend I trust, so I feel like I should give it a fair reading. In fact, it is open in a tab of my browser right now and I plan to read it a few more times.

      First off, the 2 articles are very different. The Atlantic piece doesn’t look at any science or deal with memory in any way. I’m not sure how these articles are even related in your mind.

      There are several issues I have with the article in The Atlantic, but I think the one I really can’t get past is that the writer claims to have known Kavanaugh to be an excellent person over the last 20 years – go read the first paragraph again to refresh your memory. Now, in spite of 20 years of knowing, speaking warmly of, liking, and supporting, the writer has decided that based on Kavanaugh’s reaction to being publicly pursued as a sex offender and attempted rapist (or simply rapist if you read some folks) he has completely changed his mind on the question of temperament and fitness to judicial function.

      I find that position really hard to agree with. Sex crimes are the worst thing a man can be accused of. They are the one set of crimes that can *irredeemably* destroy a person socially. I can think of no other set of crimes that carry similar social weight. And I’m expected to believe that people should calmly address these types of accusations?

      I would be angry, sad, scared, crying, screaming, etc. too if I knew I was not guilty of such things. I don’t find it the least bit odd that Kavanaugh “seemed like a different person altogether.” And I don’t know why anyone would expect anything different.

  24. craiglgood says

    Excellent points, all. It’s still worth looking at Coleman Hughes’ blog post on the Baysian case for probably believing Ford. But I’ve long argued that eyewitness testimony should only be allowed in court under very limited circumstances. Here’s my own piece on the fallibility of memory:

    The short version is that human narrative memory sucks.

  25. D Bruce says

    She’s a liar. She’s deliberately superimposed Kavanaugh over old memory of something that did happen. She’s got Trump Derangement Syndrome.

  26. listdervernunft says

    The present is not determined by the past – it IS the past. If this sounds paradoxical, then we can rephrase it thus: what is, is not determined by what was; rather, what was IS now what is. Just as the verse of a song does not determine the chorus of a song but rather BECOMES it, both [past and present] are distinguishable but inseparable moments of one and the same identity, which in this case is the song.

    I found it remarkable that the psychological studies cited in the article seem to suggest the contradiction that the more you remember something, the less you remember it. Or, more precisely, that the act of retrieving a memory tends to degrade its fidelity. This would imply that there is such a thing as “memorative wear and tear” in which the condition of a recollection is damaged every time it is accessed, indicating that there is an inverse relation between quantity and quality when it comes to phenomenal memory: i.e. the more times one remembers an experience, the less well one remembers it [each additional time].

    This counterintuitive fact can only be explained by assuming that whenever we retrieve a memory of an experience, we are actually in effect remembering our memory of that experience and not the experience itself. In short, while our first memory of an event is a copy of that event’s “raw” reality, all subsequent memories are no longer copies of its reality, but rather are “cooked” copies of the copy of its reality; hence the gradual degradation in their degree of likeness to the initial experience. It is like repeatedly photocopying a photocopy: with each additional photocopy, the image reproduced gets further and further away from the original and/or closer and closer to the errors and artefacts of the material preserving (but equally distorting) it.

    We cannot return to the source material because we ourselves still are the source material. We cannot know what we “went through” because we are still “going through” it. We cannot, as it were, read the testimony of reality because it is still being written.

  27. neoteny says

    even when there is an arrest, the punishment is often inadequate, with fewer than 11 percent of arrests leading to incarceration

    This is a misuse of judicial statistics. The legal requirement for an arrest is probable cause; the legal requirement for punishment is conviction; the legal requirement for conviction is beyond a reasonable doubt. The quoted statement only says that out of 100 arrests on suspicion of rape (or sexual assault, as some jurisdictions don’t have rape as a charge anymore), 11 results in incarceration for the arrestees: but it doesn’t say how many arrests results in conviction (either by trial or a guilty plea). Without knowing that, it can’t be known if the cause of such a low incarceration per arrest rate is police making arrest decisions too easily or sentencing judges going too easily on convicted rapists.

    For example: if 100 arrests lead to 90 convictions which lead to 11 incarcerations, then the conviction per arrest rate is 90% and the incarceration per conviction rate is 12.2%. But if 100 arrests lead to 20 convictions which lead to 11 incarcerations, then the conviction per arrest rate is 20% and the incarceration per conviction rate is 55%.

  28. Roslyn Marsh says

    How are you so sure that it was he?” Feinstein asked.

    “The same way that I’m sure I’m talking to you right now,” Ford said. “Basic memory functions, and, also just the level of norepinephrine and epinephrine in the brain, that sort of, as you know, encodes– that neurotransmitter—encodes memories into the hippocampus, so the trauma-related experience is kind of locked there, whereas other details kind of drift.”

    Bothers me. “As you know”. Why would Feinstein know, why does Ford assume she does. Because it was rehearsed?

    Her dogmatic declaration on trauma and memory went unchallenged, whereas as this article demonstrates like all matters of the mind her explanation is contested.
    Because to challenge her scientific explanation would be to suggest she is deliberately confusing the Senators and Metoo allows her to be believed however doubtful. Subtle intimidation. Versus quavering little girl voice.

  29. josh says

    While it’s worthwhile to contemplate the imperfections of memory, most of this article does not address the Ford-Kavanaugh case, and it elides important points relevant to that case.

    Ford’s claim is not a simple eye-witness identification from a line-up, rather it identifies two perpetrators with whom she was familiar by name. It’s hard to find a comparable case that has been proved a misidentification. Her memory is specific on some details, especially those dealing directly with the alleged rape, and hazy on others, like exactly where and when it happened, or exactly who was with her before and after the incident. This would be entirely normal for a 30 year old memory of a traumatic incident she tried to put behind her. However, what she does remember: the town, the likely year, the people around; are all entirely consistent with the facts we know. Moreover, multiple other people confirm the depiction of Kavanaugh as a habitual and belligerent drunk, including a police report. His own calendar, year-book and written notes confirm he was a heavy drinker and stereotypical frat-guy.

    This is not proof beyond reasonable doubt that the assault took place as described by Ford, but Kavanaugh is not on criminal trial. He is being considered for the highest judicial office in the US. He is the subject of two other accusations, neither of which has been withdrawn or refuted. But moreover, his behavior under questioning was evasive, unlike Ford’s. He repeatedly misrepresented what had been said, he went off onto tangents rather than answer direct questions. He randomly alleged a political conspiracy on behalf of the Clintons. Beyond that, he clearly misrepresented himself to Congress under oath. He lied about having parties on weekdays, about Ford going to a school too far away to be in his social circle, about the meaning of a ‘Devil’s Triangle’ and ‘boofing’, about comments about his classmate Renate, about ralphing because he had a “weak stomach” for spicy food. He repeatedly downplayed or evaded his partying behavior by dodging to his sports performance or church attendance.

    People will say, “oh how would you like someone to go through your high-school life looking for problems?”. Well, personally I wouldn’t worry, but more to the point, you don’t get to lie about it under oath just because it is embarrassing. Kavanaugh could have said ‘I was a hard-drinking person in high-school and college, I had juvenile attitudes towards sex and I was callous towards women. I’m deeply embarrassed and I offer an apology to anyone I mistreated, that is not the person I am now. However, I never engaged in sexual assault of Dr. Ford.” Instead, he dissembled. That counts against his innocence in Ford’s accusation, but regardless of the facts of the assault, it should count decisively against his nomination.

    Contra what some are saying, the only people who have contradicted Ford are the two who were allegedly involved in the attempted rape, one of whom wrote a memoir about being a blackout alcoholic. Leland Keyser believes Ford, but does not remember a specific party from her teenage years.

  30. xyz and such says

    sorry, although memory is fallible and in a court of law her story might not be provable and lack evidence, I believe her story is highly likely to be mostly true to what happened.

    And the argument could be made that BK is reasonably angry because of a ‘false accusation’ and a belief that this isn’t ‘fair’, and his behavior understandable for that reason, but his behavior was inappropriate for the situation. Seriously, whatever you want to say about Hilary Clinton, she was subject to far worse and maintained her cool and professionalism. His behavior just isn’t ‘judicial’ and that is important to evaluating his suitability for this role.

    But beyond any of that, assuming the best case scenario regarding this situation and his innocence (which I think it a pretty big stretch,) he showed beyond any doubt the level of his partisanship. Supreme Court Justices are supposed to be non-partisan and apolitical, and while no one could be completely non partisan; he is very clearly highly partisan and holds deep animosity toward Democrats. For this reason alone he should not be confirmed.

    I believe if he is confirmed it will be the breaking point for our country and things will politically decompensate rapidly and in dangerous ways.

  31. Simon Johnson says

    Whilst I appreciate the article for its explanation of psychological principles, it’s worth mentioning that this is not a legal trial. The burden of proof of guilt of rape does not apply here.
    The purpose of the hearings is to establish whether Kavanaugh is fit for office. The gross inconsistencies in his testimony, entitled attitudes towards the committee and frankly strange responses to questions should be the focus – given that we cannot objectively determine his guilt or inocence of sexual assault.

  32. Actual Russian Troll says

    So this would be fun:

    Kavanaugh gets confirmed to the Supreme Court and is seated.

    Then he founds the Trauma-induced Wrongful Accusation and Treatment (the acronym is a coincidence) Center at Yale, in honor of Doctor Professor Christine B. Ford.

    I would donate.

  33. martti_s says

    As a medical doctor somewhat interested in psychology, I am just wondering how come an accomplished academic (professor status) in psychology pretends that she can accurately remember events 36 years back let alone that a polygraph would in any way make her memories more reliable.

    She must be very intelligent to have such a career.
    It is obvious that she has confabulated stuff about fear of flying and closed spaces.
    She managed to changer her ‘hearing’ into a therapy session where direct and relevant questions were not asked.

    I would call her a skilled manipulator who used her superior intelligence to turn a nomination process into an emotional #metoo outrage with toxic amounts of natural hormones and their substitutes fuming inside and out on the streets as well.

    • martti_s says

      (sorry the French infinitive, that’s the language I use daily)

  34. marti_s says

    Also, the science says that trauma-related experiences are not any more exact that the others and contrary to ‘common sense’ the more often you revive a memory the less faithful to the original scenario it becomes. The explanation is tha each time we rmember something, the memory is constructed with the brain ia a different state, using different pathways and networks that (naturally) carry different associations and emotional charges.
    Memories tend to change towards an image that corresponds to what makes sense in your world but also that which rhymes with your dreams and your fears.
    A professor of psychology is supposed to know where the current science is.
    So either she is not a very good professor or possibly she’s on an agenda.

    • If the accusation was concocted as part of a political agenda it would almost certainly look very different. Ford would have “remembered” (i.e., fabricated) all or most of the relevant details, and would have placed at least one corroborating witness in the room instead of a drunken friend of Kavanaugh’s! Also, she probably would have claimed that Kavanaugh actually raped her. The idea that Ford is a pawn in a conspiracy theory is absurd.

      • @ KAD-
        No she wouldn’t, because inevitably one of those details would be proven false, and then her story would crumble. Kavanaugh actually had a calendar from 1982, and could prove where he was. If she said “it happened July 8th” and he can show on his calendar that on July 8th 1982 he was at the beach with his family, with family pictures to prove it, then her story dies. If it could be any day, of any summer month, it can’t be refuted.

        All the talk about ‘her story is creditable’ is really saying “you can’t disprove it”. If she gave any sort of detail, someone may be able to show it wasn’t possible and then the ‘creditable’ smoke screen gets lifted and all we are left with is a bunch of lying partisan hacks.

        She is racking up a rather impressive record of misleading people though…….

        “Is that the reason for the second door — front door — is claustrophobia?” asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “Correct,” Ford replied……

        But documents reveal the door was installed years before as part of an addition, and has been used by renters and even a marriage counseling business.

        “The door was not an escape route but an entrance route,” said an attorney familiar with the ongoing congressional investigation. “It appears the real plan for the second front door was to rent out a separate room.”

        The discrepancy raises fresh doubts about Ford’s candor and credibility amid other inconsistencies, congressional and other knowledgeable sources say, including her purported “fear of flying.” Ford initially refused to submit to an interview with the committee because of an alleged airplane phobia, but investigators established that she had taken a number of flights back East this summer, and had previously flown to Hawaii, Costa Rica, French Polynesia and other South Pacific islands.

        Letter- “During some of the time we were dating, Dr. Ford lived with Monica L. McLean, who I understood to be her life-long best friend. During that time, it was my understanding that McLean was interviewing for jobs with the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office. I witnessed Dr. Ford help McLean prepare for a potential polygraph exam. Dr. Ford explained in detail what to expect, how polygraphs worked and helped McLean become familiar and less nervous about the exam. Dr. Ford was able to help because of her background in psychology.”
        “White visiting Ford in Hawaii, we traveled around the Hawaiian island including one time on a propeller plane. Dr. Ford never indicated a fear of flying. To the best of my recollection Dr. Ford never expressed a fear of closed quarters, tight spaces, or places with only one exit. I assisted Dr. Ford with finding a place to live in [redacted], CA. She ended up living in a very small, 500 sq. ft. house with one door.

        Despite trying to maintain a long distance relationship, I ended the relationship once I discovered that Dr. Ford was unfaithful while living in Hawaii. After the break up, I took her off the credit card we shared. But nearly 1 year later, I noticed Dr. Ford had been charging the card, and charged about $600 worth of merchandise. When confronted, Dr. Ford said she did not use the card, but later admitted to the use after I threatened to involve fraud prevention.”

  35. NickG says

    > Ford sounded like someone who had experienced a trauma<

    Not really. She seemed manipulative and unhinged – the little girl lost routine, with coquettish glances and poses, the little girl voice affectation, the valley girl upspeak – in a woman north of 50 for god's sake, the goldfish mouth routine.

    That's before we drill into the absurdity of even having a hearing on an uncorroborated fumbling event from 36 years back – though she cant pin down the year, nor the house where the alleged party was and her cited witnesses don't just not corroborate the alleged groping, the don't corroborate the party.

    It's a scary world for men when their reputation and livelihoods can be destroyed by any bint with a grudge, an axe to grind or even an overly febrile imagination. Women who have men in their life – sons, fathers, brothers husbands, partners and male friends – should be deeply concerned about these developments too.

    • @NickG, I’m more concerned about any women in *your* life. You seem to lack any empathy or compassion for the many, many women who have been victimized by men (I think Ford is probably among them, but we’ll never know for sure), and are instead reserving all your sympathy for the vanishingly small number of men who are falsely accused of sexual assault. Perhaps you identify with sexual predators for some reason?

      • L.D. says


        Sadly, I think you just proved NickG’s point about false acusations because of spite.

        You just accused of aligning himself with sexual predators because you strongly disagreed with him.

        This is exactly the point.

  36. Lawrence Stanley says

    “Even if Ford is right, it’s not enough to take one person on their word…”

    This is completely untrue. The majority of cases that involve accusations older than a week involve one person’s word — that of the accuser — and a disclosure to a third person from the accuser. Corroborating evidence in such cases does not consist of the words of others,except insofar as others were told what happened by the accuser. It consists of circumstantial evidence (e.g., the accuser and accused being in the same location at the same time, which itself can be proven by the testimony of the accuser and lack of evidence to the contrary; or (case in point) Ford’s memory of meeting up Judge at the supermarket not long after.

    For a clear-headed view on the credibility of Ford or Kavanaugh, listen to Sam Harris’s latest podcast (although Harris may be wrong about the 1983 meaning of “boof.”)

    • Lawrence, I second your recommendation of “Waking Up.” Harris discusses the issue at the beginning of the episode with Bill Maher.

    • Jay Salhi says

      Do the majority of case involve scenarios where no third person (and no independent evidence) can put the accused and the accuser in the same room together? I have never heard of such a case before this one.

  37. Caligula says

    We really don’t know whether Ford has had this memory continuously since 1982 or so, or whether it was only recovered/discovered in therapy in 2012.

    And there seems to be no way to find out, assuming Ford was correct when she said she’d never spoken to anyone about it before 2012.

    Yet the distinction is important, as recovered memory is particularly unreliable.

      • Lawrence Stanley says

        (The 2012 disclosure was in a group therapy session, and the description was spontaneous, not coaxed by the therapist or recovered.)

        • Jay Salhi says

          How would you know it was spontaneous and not coaxed? The therapy records were not released. Ford has selectively released only limited information. We don’t even know who the therapist was or what techniques she / he uses. Was it someone reputable or some quack? We have no idea.

    • xyz and such says

      I love how everyone (including you) suddenly thinks they understand this science and then cherry-pick concepts from the psychological literature to support their particular political point of view. As someone who is very familiar with the psychological research, I can tell you that Ford’s memories do not fall into the definition of recovered memory and this is not even debatable by anyone who understands these issues. So you have zero idea about what you are talking about. Additionally, with reference to issues of how reliable memory is in general, and in situations of trauma, her descriptions of what she does and doesn’t remember would be considered very reliable. The fact that there is research about the ‘unreliability’ of memory doesn’t necessarily mean whatever you want it to. There are specific understandings about what is and isn’t reliable about the way details are remembered. Making blanket statements to dismiss someone’s reporting comes from either ignorance or the pursuit of an agenda along with a willingness to manipulate truth to support it.

      You also don’t seem to recall all the recently reported facts . As Ford spoke to many of her friends in the period directly after the event. There wasn’t any inconsistencies in her reporting of this and her reporting of it is corroborated by numerous people from different places in her life.

      • martti_s says

        So you have opinions and you want stick with them.
        You are not bringing in any new information relevant to the case.

      • L.D. says

        @xyz and such

        As you do not know anyone personally on this forum from what I can tell, I am not sure how you are so certain that everyone is “cherry picking.”

        You did say, “As someone very familiar with psychological research” that statement is not a credential of any kind.

        If you choose say that others are cherry picking and are without knowledge/experience but you of course should be taken at your word with familiarity of the research… I am sorry but your bias is showing.

        • xyz and such says

          well it is certainly as much a credential as yours. my bias is founded in the research, and I can tell when there is cherry picking when research is so obviously misused. that’s actually provable, if you care to look more carefully.

          • @xyz and such

            Again all we have to go on is your anonymous word that you’ve done the research and everyone else hasn’t. I would rather hear the research and the argument not that it’s obvious that everyone has not.

  38. She lost me when she parenthetically interrupted her frightening narrative to dispassionately bolster her credibility by describing the crux of the allegation as being “etched indelibly on the hippocampus.” (Approximately accurate quote). Alas, the lady, she protesteth too much.

    Fortunately, it was enough to launch Trump’s boy into his Fox News what-about, you-can’t-handle-the-truth hit job, which, regardless of the facts, totally belies any suggestion of Judicial temperament or demeanor, and certainly renders any suggestion of impartiality untenable.

    Worse than that, with an important component of the issues being the possibility of alcoholism, it didn’t help that his closing rant sounded like lines prepared by ‘Shameless’ writers for Frank Gallagher when he’s caught spending the family’s rent on crack and whiskey.

  39. V 2.0 says

    Whether Ford’s memory is faulty or not is irrelevant. It was thirty years ago, there is no physical evidence and, as far as I can tell, no reliable witnesses. There is nothing to prove a crime was even committed never mind the identity of the theoretical perpetrator. I am inclined towards a view where, in these types of cases, if there was no physical damage resulting in a trip to the doctor get some therapy and move on (P.S. I am a woman).

  40. Pingback: The Fallibility of Memory and The Importance of Evidence - MOJO

  41. Pingback: Brett Kavanaugh confirmed by Senate, sworn in as Justice | Overlawyered

  42. Joshua says

    Here is my issue with those asserting that Kavanaugh should have remained perfectly level-headed:

    I am a surgeon, and I regularly operate on patients who have cancer. I diagnose their disease, provide management options, and perform their surgeries with a level head. If there is a complication in the operating room, I use years of training and experience to solve the problem without becoming emotionally overwrought (despite what medical drama on tv would have you believe). Often, patients die from their disease despite their treatment plan being correct and the operating room team completing the surgery without error. When this happens, I remain detached, attempt to view the facts without becoming too impassioned, and determine whether or not things could be done differently in the future. i learn from my mistakes, and I go and treat the next patient, with the next disease. I do not let my patients see how prior cases that day/month/year/career might have affected me. They deserve and expect the best possible doctor that I can be.

    If my fiancee, mother, or brother had the same cancer, and I was asked to help them make the same decision, i would be thought of as a sociopath if i maintained the same detached, dispassionate stance. Furthermore, I know that my ability to remain rational would be compromised, and I would be prone to emotional outbursts (crying, raising my voice, lashing out) if my family member had a poor outcome or death. None of how i would react if a family member had cancer has anything to do with how i react when a patient of mine has cancer.

    Reactions to similar events in your personal and professional lives can be vastly different. Using someone’s response to being accused of a horrendous crime that they believe they are innocent of to somehow imply that they cannot maintain emotional distance in their job makes no sense to me.

  43. rick g. says

    That was definitely a thought provoking article. The statistics from the various studies were very compelling. It wasn’t until a few hours after reading it that I thought of a few twists to some of the statistical data presented by the author:

    Figure 2: 44% of rape victims do NOT misidentify (56% misidentify)
    58% of other sexual offenses do NOT misidentify (42% misidentify)

    Ford was not raped, therefore would she be correctly grouped among “other sexual offenses”, therefore significantly increasing her chance of correctly identifying her assailant?

    Regarding Perry vs. New Hampshire, if 1/3 of eyewitness reports are incorrect, 2/3’s ARE correct.

    With respect to memory faults, wouldn’t Kavanaugh also be impacted by the same statistics? That is, isn’t it as likely that HIS memory is as faulty as Ford’s, therefore HE could be wrong about not remembering assaulting her?

    And are there any studies of how males react when confronted with a sexual indiscretion (infidelity, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape)? If so, what % of men falsely deny such charges even when confronted with credible evidence?

    And change a single word in the last paragraph, and it could read,”DENIALS are not always justly made, and even when they are, they may be misattributed based on the malleable and reconstructive nature of human memory.”

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