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Wagenaar, W.A.


Willem Albert Wagenaar

Willem Albert Wagenaar, born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, in 1941. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Professor of Experimental Psychology at Leiden University and Rector Magnificus of Leiden University. († 2011)

Permanent Fellow

On February 1 2001 I began my activities for NIAS, where I spent four days of the week; the fifth day was reserved for the University of Leiden. My main empirical research project is about what people remember from reading books as a child. The advantage of studying this type of memory is that the objective truth is known, the retention periods can be up to more than 50 years, and the subject matter is rich and representative for events that occur during a normal life. The main research question is: Are changes in memory to be considered as mere failures of the memory function, or as functional adaptations that increase preparedness for future situations? The preparation of the project was co-ordinated with experts of the Royal Dutch Library in The Hague, and the Police Academy in Zutphen. The first test will be conducted in the fall of 2001. The second project is an extension of my study on autobiographical memory, reported in 1986. Apart from these empirical studies I have started a textbook on “Law and Psychology”, with chapters on issues that are usually not discussed in the current texts. One example is the problem of acquiring knowledge about people based on averages and how this can be applied to individuals such as witnesses or suspects. I am also preparing a proposal for a theme group on reductionism in the behavioural sciences.

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