Using social science evidence


Researchers in the social sciences have pointed out problems with Gary’s Big Idea about memory and problems with Gary’s Big Idea about caution. Below you will find links to articles that summarize this research.

When claimants have a legal representative, these articles can be very useful in a hearing. A claimant’s representative can use this research to challenge Gary’s thinking. Without a legal representative, it may be difficult for a claimant to use these materials in a hearing. But when claimants send these articles to the Board, they become part of the claimant’s evidence. If Gary rejects the claim, and the claimant fights this decision, these articles will be part of the package that goes to the Refugee Appeal Division, and possibly on to the Federal Court. At the Refugee Appeal Division or in Federal Court, these articles may be helpful in getting Gary’s decision overturned because the Appeal member, or the Court judge, can use them to point out what is wrong with Gary’s decision.

If claimants want these articles to be part of the evidence in their claim, they must print them out and send them to the Board at least 10 days before the hearing. For more information about submitting documents to the Board:

Research about the limits of memory

Decades of research has shown that Gary’s Big Idea about memory is wrong. Memories are not like video recordings.

Read more about the limits of memory

Memories are incomplete, especially for upsetting events. Memories can change, even for upsetting events. And often how we remember an event will depend on the kinds of questions that we are asked about it. This research makes clear that:

  • People very often have poor memory for the timing, sequence, frequency, or duration of events. Like Boniface, Mustafa, Lupe and Jean-René, we can remember that events happened, without remembering well when they happened, in what order, for how long or how often.
  • Like Je-Tsun, we very often cannot remember well or describe accurately objects that we see everyday.
  • Like Shani, we often have trouble remembering names.
  • When we try to remember repeated events, we often have no clear memory of any one individual episode. Like Bijan, we remember the essence of what happened during these events, but our memories of the many events become blurred together.
  • When we recall an event, we will not remember things that escaped our attention at the time. Gary was suspicious because Marco and Asmaan could not remember details of their experiences: the make of the truck, the colour of the soldier’ uniforms. Marco would have seen the truck, and Asmaan would have seen the uniforms, but they have no memory of them because at the time they were paying attention to other things: both were focused on the guns that the men were carrying.
  • Over time, our memories fade and change, sometimes becoming confused with memories for other events. This can happen even for upsetting memories like Yvonne’s.

Go back to A memory is like a video recording and read on.

Research about how people respond to danger

Decades of research has also shown that Gary’s Big Idea that people avoid danger at all cost is wrong.

Read more about how people respond to dangerous situations

There are all kinds of reasons why people overlook or downplay dangers, and all kinds of reasons why we decide to take risks. Sometimes we value something more than our own safety. This research makes clear, for example, that:

  • Like Sonia, we can get used to danger when we live with it every day. The more familiar a risk it, the easier it is for us to push it to the backs of our minds.
  • Like Désirée, when we want very badly to do something that we know is dangerous, we will often find a way to convince ourselves that it will be safe enough.
  • When people like Hee-Young have lived for a long time with abuse, they can start to feel that they have no control over their own lives. They may come to believe that there is simply nothing that they can do to keep themselves safe.
  • Gary has been trained to rely on experts, so he thinks that if Emily was in danger, she would have paid a lawyer for advice. But when it comes to making difficult choices about what to do in dangerous situations, many people rely on what they hear from friends, family and the people they know and trust.
  • Safety does not always come first. People will put their lives at risk to give themselves a better chance at starting over in a new country; to support a cause that they believe in; to preserve their dignity, integrity or reputation; for a chance at love and happiness. Like Manuel, Purabi, Andrés, Lisa, Mohammed, Constance and the woman who helped Moses, people have other priorities.

Go on to read about Once a liar, always a liar.