“Expert warns pastor’s gross indecency trial about ‘imagination inflation'” & related article

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CTV News Atlantic

Published Monday, November 21, 2016 7:39AM AST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 22, 2016 7:43AM AST

Aly Thomson, THE CANADIAN PRESS

KENTVILLE, N.S. — The nature and fallibility of memory was the focus of Brent Hawkes’ gross indecency trial on Monday, in a case that has seen witnesses recounting events that happened more than 40 years ago.

Timothy Moore, chair of the psychology department at York University’s Glendon College, testified that it is not uncommon for people with gaps in their memories to unconsciously insert memories and adopt them as real.

“Memories can undergo a substantial amount of modification over time and the longer the time, the more opportunity for misinformation to occur,” Moore, an expert witness who was called by the defence, said in a courtroom in Kentville, N.S.

He spoke about “imagination inflation,” a phenomenon in which someone imagines an event in their mind and over time believes it to be true. Moore said it is not uncommon and can be self-generated.

Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby noted that the complainant in the case said his memories of the alleged incident continue to evolve, and Moore said that was a “red flag.”

“If they’re still improving now … it appears to me that imagination inflation may be at work,” said Moore. “(The complainant) is ruminating on events that’s happened 40 years ago. That’s rich fodder for imagination inflation.”

Under cross-examination, Crown lawyer Bob Morrison noted that Moore said people tend to remember events that are unique, significant or personal, and that incoherent or incomplete memories are not necessarily false.

“Would an example of that kind of memory be a group of high school students going to a party and one of them observing a teacher performing oral sex on another participant of the party?” asked Morrison.

The witness replied, “Yes.”

The charges of indecent assault and gross indecency stem from events in the mid-1970s, when the Toronto pastor was a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.

Last Tuesday, a man testified that when he was about 16 years old, Hawkes led him down a hallway during a drunken get-together at his trailer in Greenwood, N.S., and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom.

Hawkes, a prominent rights activist, has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty.

The accuracy of the complainant’s memories and the memories of two other witnesses have been questioned by Ruby throughout the trial. All three men have said they recall some things about the day in question, but other parts are foggy.

Moore said it is well-known that liquor can impair memories, and an alcoholic blackout can lead to their fragmentation and to assumptions that could be conflated with actual memories.

“It would be improbable that the person would be aware of the fragmentation of their memories,” said Moore.

But he also said that some are true memories.

“Some of our memories are recollected with high fidelity. I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he said, adding there is no way of telling true memories from illusory memories, as people can recount both with great detail.

Originally from Bath, N.B., Hawkes has been the senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. Considered one of the spiritual leaders of Toronto’s gay community, he is also known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.

The judge-alone trial continues Tuesday with the Crown expected to call rebuttal evidence on whether alcohol was served to students at Hawkes’ home. Hawkes has denied serving alcohol to minors on the day in question.

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Sex crimes trial of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes hears about ‘imagination inflation’

Hawkes denies allegations of indecent assault and gross indecency involving a teenage boy

CBC  Nova Scotia

Posted: Nov 21, 2016 8:33 AM AT     Last Updated: Nov 21, 2016 6:44 PM AT

By Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press

Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes arrives at provincial court in Kentville, N.S., on Nov. 14, 2016.

Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes arrives at provincial court in Kentville, N.S., on Nov. 14, 2016. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

The nature and fallibility of memory was the focus of Brent Hawkes’ gross indecency trial on Monday, in a case that has seen witnesses recounting events that happened more than 40 years ago.

Timothy Moore, chair of the psychology department at York University’s Glendon College, testified that it is not uncommon for people with gaps in their memories to unconsciously insert memories and adopt them as real.

“Memories can undergo a substantial amount of modification over time and the longer the time, the more opportunity for misinformation to occur,” Moore, an expert witness who was called by the defence, said in a courtroom in Kentville, N.S.

Hawkes is accused of performing sex acts on a teenage boy more than 40 years ago when the Toronto pastor was a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Hawkes, a prominent rights activist, has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and gross indecency.

‘Imagination inflation’

Moore spoke about “imagination inflation,” a phenomenon in which someone imagines an event in their mind and over time believes it to be true. Moore said it is not uncommon and can be self-generated.

Defence lawyer Clayton Ruby noted that the complainant in the case said his memories of the alleged incident continue to evolve, and Moore said that was a “red flag.”

“If they’re still improving now … it appears to me that imagination inflation may be at work,” said Moore. “(The complainant) is ruminating on events that’s happened 40 years ago. That’s rich fodder for imagination inflation.”

Not necessarily false

Under cross-examination, Crown lawyer Bob Morrison noted that Moore said people tend to remember events that are unique, significant or personal, and that incoherent or incomplete memories are not necessarily false.

“Would an example of that kind of memory be a group of high school students going to a party and one of them observing a teacher performing oral sex on another participant of the party?” asked Morrison.

The witness replied, “Yes.”

Last Tuesday, a man testified that when he was about 16 years old, Hawkes led him down a hallway during a drunken get-together at his trailer in Greenwood, N.S., and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom.

The accuracy of the complainant’s memories and the memories of two other witnesses have been questioned by Ruby throughout the trial. All three men have said they recall some things about the day in question, but other parts are foggy.

Alcohol and memory

Moore said it is well-known that liquor can impair memories, and an alcoholic blackout can lead to their fragmentation and to assumptions that could be conflated with actual memories.

“It would be improbable that the person would be aware of the fragmentation of their memories,” said Moore.

But he also said that some are true memories.

“Some of our memories are recollected with high fidelity. I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he said, adding there is no way of telling true memories from illusory memories, as people can recount both with great detail.

Order of Canada recipient

Originally from Bath, N.B., Hawkes has been the senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto for 38 years. Considered one of the spiritual leaders of Toronto’s gay community, he is also known as a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage, and in 2007 was appointed to the Order of Canada.

The judge-alone trial continues Tuesday with the Crown expected to call rebuttal evidence on whether alcohol was served to students at Hawkes’ home. Hawkes has denied serving alcohol to minors on the day in question.

The lawyers are scheduled to give their closing arguments on Wednesday. Judge Alan Tufts is expected to reserve his decision for a future date.

__________________________________________

Rev. Brent Hawkes trial hears testimony about fallibility of memories

The sexual assault trial of Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes resumes today in Kentville, Nova Scotia court.

The Toronto Star

Timothy Moore, chair of the psychology department at York University’s Glendon College, told the judge that memories are by nature “constructive and reconstructive.”

Moore says people often recall events differently, and time “can alter or change or misdirect the nature of” memories.

“Memories can undergo a substantial amount of modification over time and the longer the time, the more opportunity for misinformation to occur,” he said in Kentville, N.S., provincial court.

Hawkes is accused of performing sex acts on a teenage boy more than 40 years ago when the Toronto pastor was a teacher in his mid-20s in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. Hawkes, a prominent rights activist, has denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to indecent assault and gross indecency.

Last Tuesday, a man testified that when he was about 16 years old, Hawkes led him down a hallway during a drunken get-together at his trailer in Greenwood, N.S., and forced oral sex on him in a bedroom.

Moore said it is well-known liquor can impair memories, and an alcoholic blackout can lead to their fragmentation and to assumptions that could be conflated with actual memories.

“It would be improbable that the person would be aware of the fragmentation of their memories,” he said.

But he also said that some are true memories.

“Some of our memories are recollected with high fidelity. I don’t think anyone would dispute that,” he said.

2 Responses to “Expert warns pastor’s gross indecency trial about ‘imagination inflation'” & related article

  1. Sylvia says:

    “Imagination inflation.” That one I have never heard before. No matter, it sounds as though the Crown managed to put things into perspective.

    Nearly nine years ago, in the early days of the Cornwall Public Inquiry, after hearing ad nauseam attempts to discredit victims and.or witnesses because of ‘memory’ issues, I decided to first pout myself to a memory test, and then my husband. It was a fascinating exercise. Here’s what I wrote then. Give it a try.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Sylvia – what an “eye-opener”!!! I just tried your test, and you are so right. I would recommend all on your site to do the same.
    I have questioned myself so many times through these years, and really in some instances began to doubt my own credibility. The important thing here is that the most important details of any traumatic event in our lives is usually burnt deep into our memories, never to be forgotten.
    Where a picture was hanging, what colour was the door, what colour was the fridge is usually not noted, and is easily missed. Makes sense.
    Thank You. Mike.

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