► Over 5,000 subjects were asked if they remembered fabricated political events.In May of 2010, Slate.com invited its readers to complete a survey about their perspectives on various political events. Those who volunteered read about five unrelated news events with accompanying photographs and were asked about their memories for them. Unbeknownst to the respondents, one of the five events they were asked about was a complete fabrication; it never happened at all. In effect, Slate readers became participants in the largest false memory experiment ever conducted.
► About half of the sample showed evidence of memory distortion.
► Political preferences appeared to guide the formation of false memories.
► Suggestions that are congruent with prior attitudes and evaluations can produce feelings of familiarity and recognition.
► These can in turn bias source judgments, leading to false memories.
The Formation of False Memories [FULL TEXT]Related
For most of this century, experimental psychologists have been interested in how and why memory fails. As Greene2 has aptly noted, memories do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they continually disrupt each other, through a mechanism that we call "interference." Literally thousands of studies have documented how our memories can be disrupted by things that we experienced earlier (proactive interference) or things that we experienced later (retroactive interference). Relatively modern research on interference theory has focused primarily on retroactive interference effects. After receipt of new information that is misleading in some way, people make errors when they report what they saw3. The new, post-event information often becomes incorporated into the recollection, supplementing or altering it, sometimes in dramatic ways. New information invades us, like a Trojan horse, precisely because we do not detect its influence. Understanding how we become tricked by revised data about a witnessed event is a central goal of this research. The paradigm for this research is simple. Participants first witness a complex event, such as a simulated violent crime or an automobile accident. Subsequently, half the participants receive new misleading information about the event. The other half do not get any misinformation. Finally, all participants attempt to recall the original event. In a typical example of a study using this paradigm, participants saw a video depicting a killing in a crowded town square. They then received written information about the killing, but some people were misled about what they saw. A critical blue vehicle, for instance, was referred to as being white. When later asked about their memory for the color of the vehicle, those given the phony information tended to adopt it as their memory; they said they saw white4. In these and many other experiments, people who had not received the phony information had much more accurate memories. In some experiments the deficits in memory performance following receipt of misinformation have been dramatic, with performance differences as large as 30 or 40%. This degree of distorted reporting has been found in scores of studies, involving a wide variety of materials. People have recalled nonexistent broken glass and tape recorders, a clean-shaven man as having a mustache, straight hair as curly, stop signs as yield signs, hammers as screwdrivers, and even something as large and conspicuous as a barn in a bucolic scene that contained no buildings at all. In short, misleading post-event information can alter a person's recollection in a powerful ways, even leading to the creation of false memories of objects that never in fact existed.
False beliefs about fattening foods can have healthy consequences [FULL TEXT]
We suggested to 228 subjects in two experiments that, as children, they had had negative experiences with a fattening food. An additional 107 subjects received no such suggestion and served as controls. In Experiment 1, a minority of subjects came to believe that they had felt ill after eating strawberry ice cream as children, and these subjects were more likely to indicate not wanting to eat strawberry ice cream now. In contrast, we were unable to obtain these effects when the critical item was a more commonly eaten treat (chocolate chip cookie). In Experiment 2, we replicated and extended the strawberry ice cream results. Two different ways of processing the false suggestion succeeded in planting the false belief and producing avoidance of the food. These findings show that it is possible to convince people that, as children, they experienced a negative event involving a fattening food and that this false belief results in avoidance of that food in adulthood. More broadly, these results indicate that we can, through suggestion, manipulate nutritional selection and possibly even improve health.
Some of the biggest names in the art world have reportedly been fooled by a biography of a fake artist created by the author William Boyd and the rock star David Bowie. Last week the glitterati of New York gathered for a launch party of Boyd's biography of the apparently rediscovered American painter Nat Tate. Bowie, a director of 21 Publishing, the company which produced the book, read extracts to the gathering. Critics on the other side of the Atlantic were due to attend the British launch of the memoir on Tuesday. Several British papers, including the Sunday Telegraph, have already run extracts from the book. Excerpts were also published on Bowie's own website. (Previously)
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