How to plant a false memory

| November 28, 2008 | 5 Replies

In this article, Elizabeth Loftus details how “many individuals can be led to construct complex, vivid and detailed false memories via a rather simple procedure.”   The effect is unnervingly powerful.

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Category: Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich and his wife, Anne Jay, live in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where they are raising their two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. I found this on YouTube:
    http://tinyurl.com/6zvhkb
    It's a bit of a jumble, but you hear Prof. Loftus speak a.o. about what happened when she started publishing her research.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Brain development occurs at different rates for each individual. I have a rare genetic trait that presents in the structure and functionality of my nervous system, and one of the symptoms is an odd type of synesthesia. Due to the synesthesia, I recall events in great detail from as early as just a few days after being born. I am somewhat less susceptible to false memories, because the synesthetic attributes in a memory cannot be faked, and are like signatures.

  3. Rwanda Wilsonne says:

    Your comments on this article raised a few questions. First, the “rather simple procedure.” The article says the researchers asked the subjects’ relatives for information about a typical family shopping trip. Then the researchers inserted a realistic story about the subject getting lost during a shopping trip when they were 5. Isn’t that a little complicated? Especially if this study is supposed to show that therapists can implant false memories of child sexual abuse in their clients? The article also says the relative verified the participant wasn’t lost at 5. But since the subjects were all 18 and over, how do we know the relative would remember if the participant got lost 13 years ago? Plus, if you check out the original study, they describe two subjects that were convinced. But they also say that one of them decided the lost story was false. And the other one at http://www.culthelp.info/index.php?option=com_con… corrected the false story, then told a substantially different story about getting lost at K-Mart. So how can we say for certain these 2 participants were “led to construct complex, vivid and detailed false memories”?

  4. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The most spectacular cases of false memories have been the daycare sexual abuse cases in the 1980's and 1990's.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_care_sexual_abus

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    This post reminds me of a lecture I saw recently about the Wisconsin Innocence Project — a program at the University of Wisconsin Law School in which students seek to free people in prison who were wrongly convicted of crimes. According to the speaker, it is disturbingly easy to plant false memories, including false memories in so-called "eye witnesses" to crimes — a frightening fact given the large number of convictions that are based primarily on "eye witness" testimony. Even more frightening is the surprisingly high incidence — as high as 25% — of false confessions produced by police interrogations, as well as convictions that are based on other faulty police work (witness or evidence tampering, deficiencies in line-ups, incompetent detective work, incompetent preservation and testing of evidence, etc.). Seeing the many ways in which ordinary police work can get botched up and produce wrong results illustrates how the utterly defective military intelligence practices by the Bush administration resulted in their many costly mistakes.

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