It Can Be Very Difficult to Determine When a Person is Recollecting Actual Past Events, As Opposed to False Memories
Many people are prone to 'remembering' events that never happened, according to new research by the University of Warwick, UK published in Memory. In a study on false memories, Dr. Kimberley Wade in the Department of Psychology demonstrates that if we are told about a completely fictitious event from our lives, and repeatedly imagine that event occurring, almost half of us would accept that it did.
Over 400 participants in 'memory implantation' studies had fictitious autobiographical events suggested to them — and it was found that around 50% of the participants believed, to some degree, that they had experienced those events. Participants in these studies came to remember a range of false events, such as taking a childhood hot air balloon ride, playing a prank on a teacher, or creating havoc at a family wedding. Thirty percent of participants appeared to 'remember' the event — they accepted the suggested event, elaborated on how the event occurred, and even described images of what the event was like. Another 23% showed signs that they accepted the suggested event to some degree and believed it really happened.
Dr. Wade and colleagues conclude that it can be very difficult to determine when a person is recollecting actual past events, as opposed to false memories — even in a controlled research environment; and more so in real life situations. These findings have significance in many areas — raising questions around the authenticity of memories used in forensic investigations, courtrooms, and therapy treatments. Moreover, the collective memories of a large group of people or society could be incorrect — due to misinformation in the news, for example — having a striking effect on people's perceptions and behavior.
Dr. Wade comments on the importance of this study:
"We know that many factors affect the creation of false beliefs and memories — such as asking a person to repeatedly imagine a fake event or to view photos to "jog" their memory. But we don't fully understand how all these factors interact. Large-scale studies like our mega-analysis move us a little bit closer.
"The finding that a large portion of people [is] prone to developing false beliefs is important. We know from other research that distorted beliefs can influence people’s behaviours, intentions and attitudes."
Scientists have been using variations of this procedure for 20 years to study how people can come to remember wholly false experiences.
The paper, A Mega-analysis of Memory Reports from Eight Peer-reviewed False Memory Implantation Studies, is co-authored by Dr. Kimberley Wade at the University of Warwick, UK, Dr. Alan Scoboria at the University of Windsor, Canada, and Professor Stephen Lindsay at the University of Victoria, Canada.
- Open Letter to All Doctors, Nurses and Caregivers
- At the New Orleans Museum of Art: Behind the Mask in 18th-century Venice, A Life of Seduction and Former White House florist Laura Dowling
- Class Distinctions: Is the Sitter's Dress Made of Silk or Coarse Wool? Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer
- Balance and Driving Skills: Boosting Older Adults’ Vision Through Training
- Betting Decisions and Dopamine Regulating Genes in Your Brain
- The Cheater's High: The Unexpected Affective Benefits of Unethical Behavior
- Decreasing the Age of the Older Face: Are certain features or color dimensions more important than others for age perception?
- Why Worry? Relationships and GAD
- Never Too Old to Talk Tech: Ah Yes, I Remember It Well
- Does Our Personality Affect Our Level of Attractiveness?