The Fallacy of an Airtight Alibi: Understanding Human Memory for “Where” Using Experience Sampling

Elizabeth Laliberte, Hyungwook Yim, Benjamin Stone, Simon J. Dennis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A primary challenge for alibi-generation research is establishing the ground truth of real-world events of interest. In the current study, we used a smartphone app to record data on adult participants (N = 51) for a month prior to a memory test. The app captured accelerometry data, GPS locations, and audio environments every 10 min. After a week-long retention interval, we asked participants to identify where they were at a given time from among four alternatives. Participants were incorrect 36% of the time. Furthermore, our forced-choice procedure allowed us to conduct a conditional logit analysis to assess the different aspects of the events that the participants experienced and their relative importance to the decision process. We found strong evidence that participants confuse days across weeks. In addition, people often confused weeks in general and also hours across days. Similarity of location induced more errors than similarity of audio environments or movement types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)944-951
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021 Jun


  • alibi
  • autobiographical memory
  • episodic memory
  • experience sampling
  • memory for where


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