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Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

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Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Dutchgirl on Fri Jul 11, 2014 1:53 pm

Op-ed: Can parents really forget kids in cars?

By David Diamond, special to HLN
updated11:34 AM EDT, Mon July 07, 2014
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  • David Diamond is a neuroscientist and frequent consultant on Forgotten Baby Syndrome cases
  • He says parents forget kids in cars when their memory systems clash
  • He also explains how flawed memory could have played a role in Justin Ross Harris' case



Editor’s note: David Diamond, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology and the University of South Florida and a frequent consultant on Forgotten Baby Syndrome court cases.  
On June 18, Justin Ross Harris had breakfast at Chick-fil-A with his 22-month-old son Cooper. Harris claims he buckled him into his car seat, and in the half-mile drive to work, forgot Cooper was in the car. On that sweltering summer day in Atlanta, Cooper spent the entire day in the car, ultimately dying of heatstroke. At the end of his work day, onlookers noticed Harris’ hysterical cries as he discovered his son’s lifeless body, according to CNN.
Read more: Dad of child left in hot SUV won't attend funeral
This scenario reminds me of my first case in which a child died as a result of being forgotten in a hot car. Seven years ago, Lyn Balfour intended to bring her son to daycare, but instead she drove straight to work, forgetting her son was in the car. Along with the jury in a Charlottesville, Virginia courtroom, I heard a recording of her panic-stricken call to 911. Balfour’s screams expressed her terror, as well as despair, because she knew that any harm that had come to her son was her fault. The jury considered this a tragic act of human error, but was compelled to find her not guilty of manslaughter.
How can loving, attentive parents have such an incomprehensible lapse of memory? To forget a child and leave him or her all day in a hot car seems unfathomable and, to many, unacceptable.
I have studied this phenomenon, referred to as Forgotten Baby Syndrome or FBS, for the past 10 years. According to data collection from kidsandcars.org, it appears that FBS has occurred hundreds of times in the United States and around the world in the past 20 years.
FBS is a failure of prospective memory, which refers to the planning and execution of an action in the future. Prospective memory is processed by two brain structures: The hippocampus, which stores new information, and the prefrontal cortex, which enables us to plan for the future. It is the hippocampus that processes that a child is in the car, while the prefrontal cortex enables a parent to plan the route, including a change in plans to go to daycare rather than straight to work.
Watch more: How did the child left in car die?
FBS appears to involve a clash between prospective memory and another form of memory, referred to as habit memory. Habit memory is formed subconsciously through repeated activities, such as learning how to ride a bike or, in the case of FBS, repeatedly driving to and from home and work.
Habit-based memories are stored in a region of the brain called the basal ganglia, which enables people to drive to work in “auto-pilot” mode, requiring minimal conscious effort. The prospective and habit brain memory systems compete against each other on a regular basis. For example, a person places a cup of soda on the car roof (prospective memory), removes keys from his pocket and drives off (habit memory), leaving the cup on the roof. In another common example, a person intends to stop at the store on the way home from work but drives right past the store to arrive home without groceries. In each case, the prospective memory system fails to remind the person of a change in routine as the habit-based memory system imposes its will to accomplish well-established tasks.
The dozens of cases of FBS I have studied have followed a similar pattern. On the day of the tragedy, the parent follows a well-traveled route, one that rarely or inconsistently includes transporting the child. Therefore, FBS appears to be a dominance of the basal ganglia to guide the parent to home or work, but in the process, it suppresses the hippocampus from reactivating the memory of the presence of the child in the car. FBS defies the simple explanation of poor parenting, having been committed by people in all walks of society, from doctors to teachers to construction workers, and by parents and grandparents around the world, including cases in Australia, France and Israel.
Watch more: See temps rise to 120 degrees F in minutes inside a parked car!
The Atlanta case fits the FBS pattern in that the father appears to have been following a well-traveled route, which inconsistently included taking Cooper to daycare. But it appears to have three disturbing components that may make it difficult for people to accept that this was an unintentional act of flawed memory.
First, Harris had breakfast with Cooper only a half mile from his workplace. How can a father forget his son is in the car in only a half-mile drive? Consider a man who places a cup of soda on the roof of the car and then searches his pockets for the keys. His basal ganglia is immediately activated upon finding the keys; he gets in the car and drives off, having completely lost awareness of the cup on the roof. The comparison of a forgotten child to a cup of soda may offend our sensibilities, but the cases of FBS I’ve studied indicate that the brain processes involved in forgotten children and material objects are disturbingly similar. It appears that the memory of the child in the car is blocked instantly and that memory can be suppressed for an entire day.
Second, court documents point out that Harris returned to his car around lunchtime, while Cooper was still inside. People may wonder how Harris could return to the car during the day and not notice his son. In the dozens of FBS cases I’ve researched, the parents who left their children in their cars had absolute certainty that their children were safe at home or with the daycare provider. Again, objective science can be disturbing, but there would have been no reason for Harris to check for his son in the car. 
Read more: Toddler's mom: 'I miss him with all my  heart!' 
Parents who commit FBS lose awareness that their children are in their cars. Tragically, these parents report that they had pictures of their child on their desks, they talked about their child with co-workers, and even reported they had to leave work on time to pick up their child from daycare. All the while, they were unaware their child was dying in a hot car. It is likely that when Harris returned to his car mid-day, there was no cue to indicate that Cooper, probably long dead, was still in the car.
A third factor is unique to this case and perhaps what people find most disturbing: According to police documents, Harris and his wife ran an Internet search on how long an animal can survive in a hot car, a day before he forgot his son in his car. Only Harris knows if the Internet search he conducted involved a conscious decision on his part to leave his son in the car, or was just a cruel coincidence.
Watch more: Did dad know he left baby in hot car to die?
Regardless of the outcome of the Atlanta case, there is no doubt that combat between brain memory systems in healthy, loving parents has resulted in heat-related deaths of children. The technology is available at a nominal cost: It is time for Congress to mandate sensors in car seats before more children die because they are forgotten in hot cars.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by NickE on Fri Jul 11, 2014 6:47 pm

Unfortunately, this happened here in Sweden last year.
And as usual in this country, no punishment.

Google translate.

Published July 16, 2013 08:53 

Eslöv in mourning after fatal accident in the car | May 9, 2013 

The father would leave her son at daycare on 7 May this year, but forgot instead left him in the car in a parking lot near his workplace. 
During the afternoon, the father a feeling that he forgot something and found the boy lifeless in the warm car. 
Ambulance and police were called to the scene. When 2-year-old found he was bluish and did not respond when spoken to. 
Boy was rushed to the hospital, but his life could not be saved. 
The boy dad arrested on suspicion of having caused the boy's death, but was released after questioning and was handed over to health care. 
overheating 
According to the autopsy points to the combined findings that the boy died of overheating. There were also some marks and light bleeding on the boy's body to suggest that he tried to free himself. 
The prosecutor Mats Svensson has previously told the Evening Post that he would not prosecute failing - which is possible when a loved one through negligence caused someone's death. Now, the father punishment probation for involuntary manslaughter. 
- If all parties agree debt then we choose this path because it costs significantly less and do not have to involve the courts. Simplified, one can say that the parole becomes a warning, says Mats Svensson told TT. 
The investigation is now complete and the handling of the case is closed.

http://www.expressen.se/kvp/villkorlig-dom-for-att-ha-glomt-sonen-i-bilen/

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by ShuBob on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:18 pm

Hi Dutchgirl, please do you have a link for the article? Thanks.

It's a wonder why a picture of the McCanns was used to accompany the story  eh 

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Gillyspot on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:23 pm

@ShuBob wrote:Hi Dutchgirl, please do you have a link for the article? Thanks.

It's a wonder why a picture of the McCanns was used to accompany the story  eh 
Flaming Heck Dutchgirl was right. Kate & Gerry in all their glory thumbsup 

Here is the link    http://www.hlntv.com/article/2014/06/30/cooper-harris-child-dies-hot-car-why-parents-forget

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Dutchgirl on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:23 pm

@ShuBob wrote:Hi Dutchgirl, please do you have a link for the article? Thanks.

It's a wonder why a picture of the McCanns was used to accompany the story  eh 

Here we go ShuBob

http://www.hlntv.com/article/2014/06/30/cooper-harris-child-dies-hot-car-why-parents-forget?sr=fb071014opedforgottenbabysyndrome11astorylink


Wonder if Nancy Grace will get sued for using this pic?

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by ShuBob on Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:30 pm

Thanks Gilly and Dutchgirl for the links.

Baffling! Images of the couple now provide stock photos for child neglect, eh. They can't blame that one on Amaral.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Guest on Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:48 pm

It's a different picture now. They must have complained. No doubt after reading this thread.

I've done a fair bit of cognitive psychology and agree with what the expert is saying. It's virtually impossible to stop humans making this kind of error (slip/lapse) without some sort of physical preventative measure being put in place. The sensor suggested wouldn't be much use as you still have to rely on the driver hearing an alarm, recognising what it means and knowing what to do. This is a very difficult area to manage in safety critical and complex operations but the same principles apply in the baby in car cases. You would have to interlock the sensor with with the doors or something eg so that they couldn't say be opened or perhaps locked unless the child was removed from the car seat. These measures would bring more risks though (trapped in car in accident, vulnerable to theft). Also you can't rely on the driver to remember to lock the doors if he's forgotton the child. It's called common cause failure.

But everything about the current case rings alarm bells. I think the police are correct in thinking this is premeditated. There has been lots more suspicious behaviour reported since this article was written. I think they have tried to cover this up as a forgotton baby death. Did anyone see the child that morning other than the parents? Is there any evidence of prior/recent injury?

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:13 am

Chilli: as regards any independent sightings of Cooper Harris on the day he died, the article reports that he and his father had breakfast together at a diner so that presumably has been confirmed as correct.

By the way, I'm not convinced that the photo that was originally included - and still appears in the first post here - is of the McCanns. It looks rather like Kate but I have my doubts.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Latetothecase on Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:48 am

Wrist. Bands.  big grin

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:34 am

Yes but they aren't the infamous good quality ones still being offered for sale on the Find Madeleine website!

I never thought I'd want to see another picture of Gerry but it's a pity that we can't see the face of the man standing by the car as that would probably resolve the identification issue.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by noddy100 on Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:41 am

It is def them I have seen the picture before. Will look for it when I get home later

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:17 am

I agree that it looks as if it could have been taken on the same day as this one.

http://www.gerrymccannsblogs.co.uk/KG%20(2).jpg

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Justformaddie on Wed Jul 16, 2014 10:33 am

To me, it's k, g and s.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by BlueBag on Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:49 pm

Well I think kids were not on their mind here... especially Madeleine.



Another one of those things that make you go hmmm...

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Language

Post by Letterwriter on Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:57 pm

Some interesting language in this article - everyone seems keen to make out that this is something that happens all by itself rather than it is something that happens because a person does it.

The journo's words:
"Payton had been left in his Ford Explorer"

I might have been more precise and said "Payton's dad left him in his Ford Explorer"


Payton's dad chimes in at the bottom of the article:
"People out there want to crucify me for what I did. I was one of those people before it happened to me."

I think you were right in the first sentence: YOU did it.  What's the second sentence about?  You haven't learnt a thing - you're still selfish and wrapped up in yourself - nothing happened to you at all - you're alive and you're a free man.  The thing that happened happened to your daughter - YOU did it, YOU killed her.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by aquila on Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:53 pm

The bottom line in all of this is that you can't forget you've left your child in a car. No amount of excuses or psycho babble can prove otherwise.

No amount of stress can enable a person to forget they have left their child in a car regardless of a particular case.

How many people are charged with leaving their dogs in a car? Do any of them say I forgot I left the dog in the car? of course not. You put the dog in the car.

I sigh at how many so called psychologists devour the possibility of forgetting you put your child in a car and forgot to remove them. If you can forget that little nugget then your driving ability and capacity to work is questionable surely.

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Re: Can parents really forget kids in cars? (Picture of McCanns included originally but now removed)

Post by Guest on Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:04 pm

I too find it hard to understand how cases like this are sometimes judged to be accidents.

I'm sure that all parents can tell stories of momentary lapses; leaving a baby in a pram outside a shop and going on one's way alone does happen.

My claim to shame is when my son and I were on a train and some lowlife cretin hurled a brick through the window right by where we were sitting. I jumped up and started brushing the glass off me. It took a woman opposite to say "look at your son". He was sitting there struck dumb with shock and absolutely covered in glass.

Thankfully he wasn't hurt but knowing that temporarily I didn't even give him a thought still plays on my mind.

However, it's certainly difficult to comprehend how anyone not suffering from an illness which would impair their ability to drive could forget that a child had been left in a car.

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