People full of shit, both liberal and conservative, most of the time.
February 13, 2013 7:17 AM   Subscribe

False memories of fabricated political events [ABSTRACT]. In the largest false memory study to date, 5,269 participants were asked about their memories for three true and one of five fabricated political events. Each fabricated event was accompanied by a photographic image purportedly depicting that event. Approximately half the participants falsely remembered that the false event happened, with 27% remembering that they saw the events happen on the news. Political orientation appeared to influence the formation of false memories, with conservatives more likely to falsely remember seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, and liberals more likely to remember George W. Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. A follow-up study supported the explanation that events are more easily implanted in memory when they are congruent with a person's preexisting attitudes and evaluations, in part because attitude-congruent false events promote feelings of recognition and familiarity, which in turn interfere with source attributions. [FULL TEXT PDF AVAILABLE HERE]
► Over 5,000 subjects were asked if they remembered fabricated political events.
► 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.
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.

The survey was posted in the weeks leading up to the publication of Slate's article on research into false memories (Saletan, 2010). Indeed, the idea that Slate's readers might come to remember whole events that never occurred is based on a voluminous literature suggesting just that. Since the mid-1990s, researchers have investigated the ways in which people come to have vividly detailed, emotionally laden memories of entirely false events—what are known as “rich false memories” (see Loftus & Bernstein, 2005). Today, we know quite a lot about the situations that can give rise to rich false memories.

A central feature of the memory implantation experiments is the use of highly credible suggestive information. In several early studies (e.g., Hyman and Billings, 1998, Hyman et al., 1995 and Loftus and Pickrell, 1995 [FULL TEXT]), researchers obtained true childhood events from familial informants and asked participants to work at remembering them. A false event invented by the experimenters (with help from the family member) was embedded among the true events, often leading more than a quarter of participants to report false memories. Researchers in another unique study recruited a well-known psychologist and radio personality to help implant false childhood memories in subjects using bogus dream interpretations (Mazzoni, Lombardo, Malvagia, & Loftus, 1999). More recently, a number of studies (e.g., Bernstein et al., 2005 and Sharman and Calacouris, 2010) have led participants to believe that a computer algorithm could, based on their responses to a battery of personality questionnaires, generate a personalized list of “likely” childhood events. Participants were then asked to try to remember events from the list, which consisted mostly of true events drawn from their earlier reports—plus one critical false event. While these studies involved diverse methodologies, they all made use of suggestions that appeared to come from a trusted, or expert source.

See also,
The Formation of False Memories [FULL TEXT]
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.
Related
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)
posted by Blasdelb (78 comments total) 64 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great post! Thanks.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:19 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


"You're doing a heck of a job, Yogi."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:26 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting! I know I saw the familial one, but it's interesting to see it with politics as well.
posted by corb at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2013


Confirmation bias at work.
posted by zooropa at 7:27 AM on February 13, 2013


This is also a really cool text if you have institutional access to it
Rich False Memories: The Royal Road to Success.
In this chapter, we have tried to show how people can be led to believe in details and events in their past that never occurred. Our focus has been on what we call rich false memories, or wholly false memories about the past. Evidence is growing that memory is highly malleable and that it can both aid us and lead us astray. Most of the time, memory serves us very well. At times, though, memory misleads us. Sometimes the error is inconsequential; other times, it can be disastrous. We have reviewed some of our own work and that of others showing how false memories arise and how they can influence the way we think about the world and the way we behave. We have also discussed some of the difficulties inherent in trying to differentiate true and false memories. Finally, we offered a theoretical account of false memory formation and discussed some real-world applications of false memory research. Future work on false memory will undoubtedly answer some of the many questions that remain. For the present, the major hurdle for individuals, juries, and clinicians is to remain cognizant of the fact that rich false memories can appear and feel just as real and true as true memories. Just because the memory report is detailed, just because the person expresses confidence, just because the individual is highly emotional when reporting, does not mean it really happened.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:29 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


So that thing Rush Limbo does works for Rachel Maddow too.
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Elizabeth Loftus does really interesting work. What's fascinating is that false memories are still memories -- to the person who believes those memories, they are as true as the sun in the sky. This is heartbreaking in instances of false memories surrounding childhood abuse. One area of research I'd like to see is the implanting or suggestion of a false memory of a documented event, and then the subject's response to seeing or witnessing that documented event. The idea of testing not only how suggestible people are, but how committed to false memories they may be. One thing that certainly affects confidence of memories in general (both true and false) is the passage of time -- every time we recall a memory, we alter it slightly and reinforce its validity.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can go straight to heaven or straight to hell, but you can't Rush Limbo.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:35 AM on February 13, 2013 [7 favorites]


As RAW put it, what the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.
posted by 23 at 7:36 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is bullshit! People don't make up false memories based on their political orientation! This is as outrageous as the time the Metafilter mods fought their way through a skyscraper to rescue some hostages from an evil German terrorist, but deliberately left all the Republican hostages behind. I don't recall the exact details of that incident, but I know it somehow involved Bruce Willis.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:41 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


I spit on this study as I spit in the face of Vietnam veterans returning from the war! I should remember, Jane Fonda was holding my hand.
posted by adipocere at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


Our minds are but little pinpricks in the infinite sea.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:46 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bias toward preference is an embedded, wired human trait. It's nice to know about things like this, because when used in measured way can sometimes make for more rational (if there is such a thing) reactions to things that one tends to be biased against. That said, it can also cripple one's soul if paid too close attention to.

One current example: Barack Obama. Here's a guy who has a clear liberal bias, but fights against that impulse to "see the other side". What do you end up with? Milquetoast. I see this in a lot of people who work to become aware of how their bias influences perception, but let knowledge of that bias somehow impede who they are, at base.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:51 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So by "full of shit, most of the time," you mean that most people are inclined to believe lies that they find agreeable?

What's up with the framing here? I don't really see how "full of shit" is appropriate for any headline that's not about septic tank cleaning.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:56 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I did that," says my memory. "I could not have done that," says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually--the memory yields. [1]
posted by goethean at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


So by "full of shit, most of the time," you mean that most people are inclined to believe lies that they find agreeable?

What's up with the framing here? I don't really see how "full of shit" is appropriate for any headline that's not about septic tank cleaning.


Have you watched the volume of political image macros from otherwise reasonable people in a facebook friends feed for any period of time?
posted by bfranklin at 8:00 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]



Have you watched the volume of political image macros from otherwise reasonable people in a facebook friends feed for any period of time?
posted by bfranklin at 8:00 AM on February 13 [+] [!]


No. If the title is an allusion to something or a quote than I guess I just don't have the context. Apologies if that's the case. It sounded(sounds?) ugly.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:04 AM on February 13, 2013


"So by "full of shit, most of the time," you mean that most people are inclined to believe lies that they find agreeable?"

Yes, and further that most people will thus be inclined to communicate falsehoods regardless of their honest relationship to the truth, or more colloquially, to bullshit:
To discourse upon the contexts, frames of reference and points of observation which would determine the origin, nature, and meaning of data if one had any. To present evidence of an understanding of form in the hope that the reader may be deceived into supposing a familiarity with content

or

It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction. A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it. When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
Though this is indeed only one of the important implications of this kind of work.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ronald Cotton spent years in jail for the rapes he did not commit because of eyewitness testimony. One of the victims made sure she could identify her rapist's face as he was assaulting her, and the face of her rapist she swore in court was Ronald Cotton's. Cotton was freed years later by The Innocence Project and DNA analysis.

Human memory is for shit. If ten people all swear on a stack of [SRS BIZNIS OATHY DOCUMENTS] that they witnessed something but the forensic evidence says otherwise, I believe the lab report.

Which leads me to think about the video about how the technology to fake the moon landing didn't exist in 1969, but the technology to send 3 people to the Moon and back did. But in 2013, at least 2 generations have grown up watching manufactured images get better and better, until we have the technology to convincingly fake the images of a moon landing while not having the ability to actually send a person to the Moon and back.

Memory is faulty and images lie.

...

I was actually hoping I'd come to a less downer conclusion than somehow.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:09 AM on February 13, 2013 [12 favorites]


If the title is an allusion to something or a quote than I guess I just don't have the context.

I don't think it's an allusion or quote so much as a pretty good synonym for hiding ignorance behind snark. It rings very true for me since every news cycle brings a host of people posting snarky image macros that often, at best, are spouting half-truths. Plenty of them are just plain false, but people with matching political ideologies share them just the same because, hey, what's the truth matter when we're trying to snark at the opposition?
posted by bfranklin at 8:26 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Barack Obama. Here's a guy who has a clear liberal bias, but fights against that impulse to "see the other side". What do you end up with?

President of ALL the people? It is the refusal to "see the other side" that makes people so biased in their biases. That's what's soul-destroying. Trying to be open-minded is much harder. Especially as it seems a fool's errand.

I think people are just lazy. Thinking is hard and because it's much easier intellectually to fit everything into a pre-conceived and somewhat crude narrative along the lines of us good, them bad, that's what people tend to do. And then you consume only information that is pre-packaged to fit into your narrative. And to make life even easier, you hang out with people who believe exactly the same things you do, and who consume the same bland information from the same sources.

And so even when you hear Rachael Maddow or Rush Limbo say that thing you know really isn't true, you repeat it to the flavor of dittohead you're talking to so they will just nod in warm and fuzzy agreement.

So yeah, confirmation bias with a dollop of validation? Tell me the truth I already believe and I will probably believe it - and remember it.
posted by three blind mice at 8:27 AM on February 13, 2013


So we've all been we've all been Zaprudered.

The JFK assassination, in the U.S., seems to be a good bellwether for how susceptible people are to this or at least how conscious, or not, they are of it.
I had a long argument with someone - and this happens to me here so perhaps it's my style at fault - about one element of the assassination: whether Oswald could have made the shot given the data we had (and given it's accuracy).
I argued that it wasn't possible.
So there's this long drawn out thing, the usual "you're a conspiracy theorist" rhetoric, etc. etc.
Until finally the question: "Well, then who killed Kennedy?"
Well, I don't f'ing know. I'm just saying under the circumstances given the data is accurate the shots Oswald made aren't possible for one person.
- "What if the data is wrong?"
Then all bets are off. I don't know why he would have done it the way he did. But he could have easily pulled it off if the sound recording is wrong.

And he's exasperated, still pissed off even though I've ceded the entire argument at the loss of one given and clinging to the absolute certainty that Oswald acted alone - even more so now in the face of my agnosticism. He's just got to convert me.

And I think that's part of the problem we face with misremembering stuff. We want things to fit rather than accept ambiguity, admitting we don't know or could be wrong and we're entirely unwilling to change our conclusions even if our premises are lost or supportive data is wrong.

We remember it the way we want to remember it because of all the things we've built on it and we don't want to lose our world view.
...at least I think so. Maybe it's mind control lasers. I don't know.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


who they are, at base

This sounds suspicously like the fundamental attribution error. “I” fail because of events and impediments beyond my control, despite my best efforts. “You” fail because you didn’t try hard enough, you just weren’t willing to work at it; “they” fail because that’s just what they’re like, “they” are failures.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:38 AM on February 13, 2013


So we've all been we've all been Zaprudered.

You're saying the Zapruder footage is fake?
posted by yoink at 8:55 AM on February 13, 2013


re Oswald - why was it not possible, what makes you say that?
posted by marienbad at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2013


I will give smedleyman, yoink and marienbad each $1 American if this thread doesn't turn into a discussion of the Kennedy assassination.
posted by Etrigan at 9:31 AM on February 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


"And so even when you hear Rachael Maddow or Rush Limbo say that thing you know really isn't true, you repeat it to the flavor of dittohead you're talking to so they will just nod in warm and fuzzy agreement. "

False equivalency. Do you perhaps have memories of Rachel Maddow calling Elizabeth Hasselbeck a slut?
posted by klangklangston at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Our minds are but little pinpricks droplets in the infinite sea.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:46 AM on February 13 [1 favorite +] [!]
Reminded me of this analgy/image I ran across of the droplet-into-water picture representing the atman and brahmam.
posted by achrise at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2013


You know the economy is bad when the price for covering up the JFK truth is a measly dollar.
posted by dr_dank at 10:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Memory is a strange and malleable thing. I've read that every time we recall something, we essentially create a fresh copy of our memory of that event, which can, often, shift over time.

I've been shocked on more than one occasion by learning that what I thought was a true and accurate memory of an event was in fact mysteriously incorrect.

So this story is no surprise at all. P.T. Barnum was absolutely right, in ways he himself could never have imagined.
posted by kinnakeet at 10:06 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking of false memory (or false information) this is from the journal article:

Bush's Katrina vacation. Participants saw a caption that read,
“September 1, 2005: As parts of New Orleans lie underwater in the
wake of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush entertains Houston Astros
pitcher Roger Clemens at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.” An altered
photograph depicted Clemens in a truck with Bush in Crawford. In
fact, Bush was at the White House when Hurricane Katrina hit, and
Clemens never visited Bush's Crawford ranch.

Okay. On August 29, 2005 (Monday) the day Katrina hit New Orleans, Bush was on vacation at his Crawford ranch in Texas. On that day he flew over to Phoenix where he celebrated Senator McCain's birthday. On Tuesday, he flew to San Diego where he gave an address at a naval base. While there he had a photo op playing guitar with country singer Rick Wills. On Tuesday night he returned to Crawford for the final night of his vacation. On Wednesday he flew over New Orleans on the way back to the White House. On September 1st, the odd day chosen by the above statement, he was back at the White House. The whole point was he was not at the White House taking this seriously until at least three days afterwards (when seriousness kicked in is debatable).

It's not being picky. If you are going to correct someone's misremembering history, you should get history right. And, what's more whether he shook hands with Clemens on his ranch is a minor thing. Now, if the false memory was shaking hands with Kim Jong-il during Katrina, that would be another matter.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:18 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


False equivalency. Do you perhaps have memories of Rachel Maddow calling Elizabeth Hasselbeck a slut?

Not every sentence containing the names "Rachel Maddow" and "Rush Limbaugh" is attempting to say "They are exactly the same." The point is that both liberals and conservatives appear to fall victim to bias in "remembering" things that never happened. It's not "false equivalency" to point that out without saying "Except, of course, that Rush Limbaugh is a dickhead."
posted by Etrigan at 10:29 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know the economy is bad when the price for covering up the JFK truth is a measly dollar.

Three dollars, in point of fact. Don't make me look cheap.
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Three dollars, in point of fact. Don't make me look cheap.

You're going to use one dollar to pay three people? That's one magic dollar!
posted by yoink at 10:36 AM on February 13, 2013 [11 favorites]


"Not every sentence containing the names "Rachel Maddow" and "Rush Limbaugh" is attempting to say "They are exactly the same." The point is that both liberals and conservatives appear to fall victim to bias in "remembering" things that never happened. It's not "false equivalency" to point that out without saying "Except, of course, that Rush Limbaugh is a dickhead.""

Rush Limbaugh — especially since he considers himself more entertainer than journalist — routinely says things that are immediately, verifiably untrue. Rachel Maddow does not. In fact, I can't think of a single instance where Maddow said something demonstrably untrue that was repeated as a talking point.

So, yeah, it is a false equivalency to go from "both liberals and conservatives do this" to implying that repeating things from Maddow and Limbaugh are equivalent. There's a big difference in truth value between the two of them.
posted by klangklangston at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If he wanted to be accurate, a better example would be Bill Maher and Rush Limbaugh.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


In fact, I can't think of a single instance where Maddow said something demonstrably untrue that was repeated as a talking point.

Well, it's a good thing that human memory is so reliab-- OH WAIT.
posted by Etrigan at 10:40 AM on February 13, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hmmm, I'm trying to think of a good example of a falsehood that liberal people in general hold to be true. Bush calling the constitution "just a goddamned piece of paper" is one that comes to mind. An equivalent on the conservative side (and one that always drives me crazy, partially because it has been repeated so often that it never gets called out as the lie that it is) would be the claim that Nancy Pelosi said that we would have to pass Obamacare in order to find out what was in it.

One of the problems, of course, with pieces like the one in the FPP is that it has also been shown that articles debunking urban legends and other misconceptions actually tend to increase belief in the things they debunk. People remember reading a story that has something to do with, say, the moonlanding being a hoax but they forget that it was debunking that claim.
posted by yoink at 10:44 AM on February 13, 2013


Hmmm, I'm trying to think of a good example of a falsehood that liberal people in general hold to be true. Bush calling the constitution "just a goddamned piece of paper" is one that comes to mind.

A lot of Bush's malapropisms are actually from comedians. "Strategery" in particular was Will Ferrell on SNL.
posted by Etrigan at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2013


"Well, it's a good thing that human memory is so reliab-- OH WAIT."

Oh man, I remember when you did a web search or anything and found a counter example to my statement that proved what I said was wrong, instead of just relying on your biases! Boy is there egg on my face now!
posted by klangklangston at 10:49 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the bullshitter homo sapien, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the (supposed) honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they ... suit his purpose.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:53 AM on February 13, 2013


Oh man, I remember when you did a web search or anything and found a counter example to my statement that proved what I said was wrong,

Not that there's the remotest parallel between Rushbo and Maddow, but here's one example.
posted by yoink at 11:07 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're saying the Zapruder footage is fake?
I hope that's tongue in cheek yoink.

Oswald - why was it not possible, what makes you say that?

Yeah....

Ok, look, it's a film. It shows events. What meaning we derive from the film depends on the context we bring to it. Because the film shows so little outside sequencing and timing what we say about it says more about how we relate to the event - the context we're bringing to it - than the event itself.

In terms of it not being possible - given the sequence of events and given some data points (there is sound data, other home movies showing parts of the events, still photographs, at least one while the shot(s) were fired, eyewitness testimony, etc - the "three shot" controversy, the "Single Bullet Theory", the scientific acoustical data from the House Select Committee on Assassinations) it makes less sense for a single shooter to do the shooting than it does for several shooters given some of that data.

But that could be wrong. Connelly and his wife saying JFK was hit by the first shot before Connelly was hit could be wrong.
There are a lot of things that don't add up given certain data. But if that data is wrong then there's no real problem.

People do all sorts of math with this, 1.6 seconds per shot or 2 seconds per shot, 'x' seconds for 'x' grouping. Physicists (Alvarez) argue the way JFK's head went, camera speed, etc. Sharpshooters ask why he didn't shoot JFK coming up Huston. Etc. etc.
Talked to physicists about it and they demand a head doesn't move that way when shot. I ask if they've ever seen anyone shot in the head or actually have shot someone, or even an animal, with a bolt action in the head "Well, no, but...*physics*"
The only objective thing I can derive from the Zapruder film is that Kennedy was definitely shot in the head with a bullet that didn't fragment. So the only absolute I can derive is the shooter used a rifle round with high sectional density at a velocity low enough to not overpenetrate. The 6.5mm Carcano fits that profile.

Given certain data (if certain ones are wrong, if others are right, etc) and a given sequence of events - then it's perfectly possible Oswald did the shot alone with the bolt action Carcano.
If other physical descriptions and points of data are correct (e.g. the single bullet theory, the acoustic data) then it's not possible.

One's willingness to believe or disbelieve in those data points are more dependent on the context one has more than the evidence of the film itself.

So I think that augments the point of the FPP - not only are' events more easily implanted in memory when they are congruent with a person's preexisting attitudes and evaluations' – but the bare fact of witnessing the event is distorted in the first place, IMHO, by those attitudes and evaluations.

The Zapruder film by itself shows no specific timing or origins of the shots.
But everyone has an idea of what they think it shows, because of what data they believe and bring to the viewing because of their preconceptions.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:08 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess, in summary, people really to hate to admit errors and really hate to say "I don't know."
So our brains make stuff up.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


A lot of Bush's malapropisms are actually from comedians.

Another great example is Sarah Palin supposedly saying 'I can see Russia from my house'. This was a line from a comedy sketch making fun of Palin for saying that you can see Russia from Alaska, but I've spoken to many people who attribute it to Palin herself.
posted by Dreadnought at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Another great example is Sarah Palin supposedly saying 'I can see Russia from my house'.

That's not such a great example, really--although Sarah Palin's defenders certainly love to bring it up. The problem is that the what Palin said in the real interview with Palin that Tina Fey was lampooning was just as silly.
CHARLES GIBSON (ABC NEWS)

(Off-camera) What insight into Russian actions particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of this state give you?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)

They’re our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.
Palin genuinely believed that, somehow, being geographically near Russian territory gave her "foreign policy" credentials. Fey's paraphrase is simply condensing what Palin did, in fact, say into a punchier form.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Palin genuinely believed that, somehow, being geographically near Russian territory gave her "foreign policy" credentials.

I think that's a slightly uncharitable reading. She didn't bring up the idea that Alaskan proximity to Russia made her special:
CHARLES GIBSON (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) Let me ask you about specific national security situations. Let’s start, because we are near Russia. Let’s start with Russia and Georgia. The administration has said, we’ve got to maintain the territorial integrity of Georgia. Do you believe the United States should try to restore Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
First off, we’re going to continue good relations with Saakashvili there. I was able to speak with him the other day and giving him my commitment, as John McCain’s running mate, that we will be committed to Georgia. And we’ve got to keep an eye on Russia. For Russia to have exerted such pressure in terms of invading a smaller democratic country, unprovoked, is unacceptable. And we have to keep…

CHARLES GIBSON (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) You believe unprovoked?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
I do believe unprovoked. And we have got to keep our eyes on Russia. Under the leadership there.

CHARLES GIBSON (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) What insight into Russian actions particularly in the last couple of weeks, does the proximity of this state give you?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
They’re our next door neighbors. And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

CHARLES GIBSON (ABC NEWS)
(Off-camera) You in favor of putting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO?

GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (REPUBLICAN VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE)
Ukraine, definitely, yes. Yes, and Georgia. Putin thinks otherwise. Obviously he thinks otherwise.
Gibson brought it up. Palin didn't even answer the actual question of what insights proximity brings, she just said, essentially, "Yeah, there's proximity."
posted by Etrigan at 11:33 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Far be it from me to defend Sarah Palin, but I do see a real difference between those two statements. What Palin said wasn't exactly meaningful, but it was technically true. I would characterise it as a rhetorical flourish, underlining how her state has international connections that she might, presumably, have dealt with as governor.

Fey's parody cleverly underlines the absurdity of Palin's argument, but it's a deliberately grotesque exaggeration. Palin's statement makes her look like, well, a politician. Fey's parody, were it real, would make her look completely delusional. I mean, not in a bad policy or overweening ego way, but in a having-a-psychotic-break way.

On preview: Etrigan's context makes Palin's statement even more forgiveable, and the acceptance of Fey's joke as 'real' even more inaccurate.
posted by Dreadnought at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Palin was having a psychotic break that ran the duration of the campaign.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on February 13, 2013


One in four Americans has an opinion about an imaginary debt plan
What’s that? You’re not familiar with Panetta-Burns? That’s probably because its “a mythical Clinton Chief of Staff/former western Republican Senator combo” that PPP dreamed up to test how many Americans would profess to have an opinion about a policy that did not exist. They found one in four voters to do just that. 

Panetta-Burns’ nonexistent policy proposals were supported by 8 percent and opposed by 17 percent of the voters surveyed. Simpson-Bowles’ real policy proposals had stronger favorables, with 23 percent support and 16 percent opposition.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:39 AM on February 13, 2013


What Etrigan has forgotten is that prior to the Gibson interview, Palin had been making this point about proximity to Russia proving her foreign policy credentials. Gibson didn't bring this up out of the blue, he's bringing it up in a "o.k., here's your chance to explain what you mean about this odd claim." And all Palin can do is say "no, no, it's really, really close! You can see it from Alaska!!" That was what Fey was mocking--the notion that Russia's geographical proximity mattered at all. And, again, seeing Russia "from my house" vs. seeing Russia "from Alaska" hardly seems meaningfully different.
posted by yoink at 11:42 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


And, of course, Fey also had in mind Palin's utterly disastrous second bite at this issue in her interview with Couric:
COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign-policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada. It, it’s funny that a comment like that was — kind of made to cari — I don’t know. You know. Reporters —

COURIC: Mocked?

PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our— our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia—

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We— we do— it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where— where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is— from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to— to our state.
One can only read that eyewateringly embarrassing pile of drivel and think "if only she had been able to say something as coherent as "I can see Russia from my house.""
posted by yoink at 11:46 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Gibson didn't bring this up out of the blue, he's bringing it up in a "o.k., here's your chance to explain what you mean about this odd claim."

However, what you said was, "The problem is that the what Palin said in the real interview with Palin that Tina Fey was lampooning was just as silly."

What she said in that interview wasn't particularly silly. In the greater context of her grasping desperately for any sort of foreign policy credential, yes, the idea of Alaska being right next to Russia is silly. But blaming it on that sound bite is, as I said, a slightly uncharitable reading.
posted by Etrigan at 11:58 AM on February 13, 2013


Hey, I remember this study!
posted by bicyclefish at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


What she said in that interview wasn't particularly silly.

You and I obviously have extremely different understandings of what counts as "particularly silly" for someone who hopes to be Vice President of the United States to say in an interview.

But the point remains--Fey wasn't adding any particular silliness to what Palin said. There is nothing inherently more foolish in claiming to be able to see Russia "from my house" than in claiming to be able to see Russia "from Alaska." (It's not like she made it into "I can see Russialandia from my house" or "I can see the Kremlin from my house" or something). The sum total of the two statements' meaning is "we here in Alaska are geographically very close to Russia." Fey's comment would not have been funny or memorable had there not existed this prior record of Palin flailing around desperately trying, and failing, to explain why it should matter that Alaska is close to Russia for anyone trying to make up their mind whether or not she was Vice Presidential material.
posted by yoink at 12:21 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I recall that Palin's original comments were just stupid and off-the-cuff. That schtick worked for her with smaller scale stuff so it was the default template for her. But Fey's version made it look more like she thought it was a really clever response, with less masked desperation. But, for a portrayal of a stupid person with aspirations way over her head, it was pretty good.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2013


You and I obviously have extremely different understandings of what counts as "particularly silly" for someone who hopes to be Vice President of the United States to say in an interview.

In the particularly sense, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a major-party vice-presidential candidate who hadn't ever said something that dumb.

But the point remains--Fey wasn't adding any particular silliness to what Palin said. There is nothing inherently more foolish in claiming to be able to see Russia "from my house" than in claiming to be able to see Russia "from Alaska."

Do you honestly not see any substantive difference between "I can see Russia from my house" and "And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska"?

I'm not defending Palin as a good choice for vice-president, nor even as a good choice for governor of Alaska. But this all goes into the topic at hand, of people remembering things they fundamentally agree with and eliding any explanation that counters the truth of those things.
posted by Etrigan at 12:32 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do you honestly not see any substantive difference between "I can see Russia from my house" and "And you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska"?

The only 'substantive' difference is that one happens as a matter of fact not to be true and the other is true. That is, it's a mere matter of factual happenstance where in Alaska Palin's house happens to be located (and one which the majority of Americans at the time would have been unable to determine). I doubt most people would even have been able to tell you whether or not it was likely that Palin could own a house from which the Russian coast was visible--people are generally not that well-informed about the exact details of Alaskan geography.

The point is nobody in the entire world thought that what was funny about Fey's joke was that Palin was so stupid she actually didn't know where her house was, or that the joke was "HAW HAW HAW, when Palin looks out of her windows she's, of course, seeing Douglas Island and she thinks it's Russia! Haw Haw!" What they thought was funny was that Fey perfectly caught the completely random and unmotivated way she brought up the fact of Alaska's line-of-sight relationship to Russia as if it was somehow, talismanically, meaningful. So the difference between "from my house" and "from Alaska" is barely significant for the joke--it just makes the claim that little bit more concrete and specific, which always gives a joke more punch.
posted by yoink at 12:51 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: characterise it as a rhetorical flourish.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2013


The only 'substantive' difference is that one happens as a matter of fact not to be true and the other is true.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by this. As far as I'm concerned, that is a substantive difference.

If you don't think that there's a significant difference between statements that are factually true, and statements that are factually untrue, then there doesn't seem to be much of a basis for discussion here. This whole study, this whole discussion, is based on the premise that mistaking an untrue thing for a true thing is... is meaningful. If we accept that premise for ourselves, therefore, it makes sense to extend it to other people, such as Sarah Palin.

To reiterate: I don't think anybody has argued, so far, that Fey did not pointedly and accurately lampoon Sarah Palin. Palin's statements were, indeed, beside the point and possibly evasive, and possibly even deceptive in a venial sort of way. But I have honestly met people who really think (with their real actual brains) that Sarah Palin claimed to have been able to see Russia from her house on the south coast of Alaska. That statement, being not only untrue but absurdly untrue, has given them an inaccurate impression of Sarah Palin, implying that she was much more delusional, or much more dishonest, than she was in real life.
posted by Dreadnought at 1:15 PM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


"I am paying for this microphone!"
-- Ronald Reagan, 1980

"Don't shut me off! I'm paying for this broadcast."
-- Spencer Tracy in The State of the Union, 1948

"Where do we find these men?"
-- Ronald Reagan, repeatedly with reference to acts of military valour (sometimes rhetorically, sometimes claiming to be quoting 'an admiral' or a 'general').

"Where do we get such men?"
-- Frederic March in The Bridges at Toko-Ri, 1954

". . . but the pilot said, 'Never mind, son, we'll ride it down together.' And that pilot was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, postumously."
-- Ronald Reagan, 1983

"I haven't got the altitude, Mike. We'll take this ride together."
-- Dana Andrews in Wing and a Prayer, 1944

and so on
posted by Herodios at 1:17 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought I heard this entire story on Freakonomics during Marketplace five days ago?
posted by vonstadler at 1:19 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you don't think that there's a significant difference between statements that are factually true, and statements that are factually untrue,

I'm saying that the factual untruth of what Tina Fey said was irrelevant to what the vast majority of people found funny or "true" about it. Had Tina Fey said--in exactly the same bubblehead voice--"I can see Russia from Alaska!" the logic of the joke would have been identical for the vast majority of viewers, most of whom have no idea where Palin's house is in relationship to Alaska's coastline (I do not disbelieve you that you have met people who thought that she actually said that she could see Russia from Juneau--I will only say that I have never, once, met such a person and never, once, seen anyone claim that online; you know some very special people--people who believe, among other things, that Saturday Night Live would tell a joke that relies on specific knowledge about Alaskan geography).

So, to go back to the original point, I think the Palin thing is a poor example of the phenomenon these papers in the FPP are describing. It didn't plant a significant "false fact" in people's minds. People don't walk around thinking "Palin's so dumb she doesn't know the details of Alaskan geography!" they walk around thinking--perfectly accurately--"Palin's so dumb she thought the proximity of Russia to Alaska somehow magically made her a foreign policy expert!" The exact wording they happen to associate with that thought is pretty insignificant.
posted by yoink at 1:28 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


FWIW I know an intelligent person who believes that Sarah Palin literally said "I can see Russia from my house."
posted by gubo at 2:13 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


By which I mean to say, she believes that Palin at least at the moment she "said" that, didn't know the details of Alaskan geography or was spouting BS.
posted by gubo at 2:14 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a good thing for the mythmakers, the poets, the pundits and the demagogues. Reality and daily life are mostly nonsensical anyway, so you can program your brain to think what it wants - either through formal cognitive behavioral therepy or internally by living your life so you follow ecstatic truth and mythical archetypes. I'm often accused of misrembering things, but now I know that its because I'm so solipsistic that I make memory match my prejudices. And now that we know that we can stop focusing on 'facts' or 'logic' and start convincing people through attractive narratives. Hitler and Reagan knew the trick - why doesn't the left get it?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:29 PM on February 13, 2013


(I do not disbelieve you that you have met people who thought that she actually said that she could see Russia from Juneau--I will only say that I have never, once, met such a person and never, once, seen anyone claim that online; you know some very special people--people who believe, among other things, that Saturday Night Live would tell a joke that relies on specific knowledge about Alaskan geography).

Except that people who believe this aren't believing they saw Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live make a joke that relied on specific knowledge of Alaskan geography. They are believing they saw Sarah Palin herself, on some sort of news show, say she could see Russia from her house - not just from her city, but from her actual backyard.

You may not have met these people, but they abound. You may even have met these people and just never talked the specifics. But they exist, and it's a great example of how this affects even smart people.
posted by corb at 2:50 PM on February 13, 2013


You can see this right now in the Dorner manhunt threads. This is a big event that's going to resonate in political memory, so everybody is trying to create a narrative that will fit their agenda. I've heard people compare him to John Brown, so they'll try and make us remember an unjustly persecuted man, hounded by racism. People comparing it to Waco (for whom 'Waco' has its own associations) want to tell you his only sin was fighting the big bad government. Or maybe he's a psycho who could only be stopped by a hail of bullets and explosives, like Terminator. Everybody's going to remember the narrative differently 'cause what matters isn't what ACTUALLY happened - its the symbolic power of what happened.

Nobody gives a shit what Robin Hood or Ned Kelly or Socrates or George Washington actually did, and if you do you're missing some fundamental truths about human nature.

Remember The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance? "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:51 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't think that there's a significant difference between statements that are factually true, and statements that are factually untrue,

The point is only that no one cares where Sarah Palin's house is. The statement could have been true and it would have changed nothing - what was funny was that she thought visual contact with Russian land was relevant.

I recall that Palin's original comments were just stupid and off-the-cuff.... But Fey's version made it look more like she thought it was a really clever response...

both videos here.

I guess it's important to remember that before there's memory, there's perspective. To me, they seem practically the same in the moment of delivery - it isn't whether she says Alaska or my house, it's the way she's nodding and teaching you something important...
posted by mdn at 2:55 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


Confirmation bias at work.

You're just saying that because you've seen confirmation bias at work before!

Anyway, I'm so glad we're actually discussing the Zapruder film of the Palin character assassination, rather than the alternative....
posted by dhartung at 3:08 PM on February 13, 2013


You may not have met these people, but they abound.

The proposition that people who can tell you, without consulting a map, whereabouts on the coastline of Alaska Juneau is "abound" (at least in any proportional sense, as opposed to in terms of sheer numbers) strikes me as absurd on its face.
posted by yoink at 3:37 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


“That was what Fey was mocking--the notion that Russia's geographical proximity mattered at all….& One can only read that eyewateringly embarrassing pile of drivel and think "if only she had been able to say something as coherent as "I can see Russia from my house.""”

That’s another funky thing our brain does. Something can be completely fictional, and yet, completely true or at least, critically valuable information as a representation of reality.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:02 PM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a difference between 'facts' and truth.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:09 PM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, to go back to the original point, I think the Palin thing is a poor example of the phenomenon these papers in the FPP are describing. It didn't plant a significant "false fact" in people's minds.

I think it's pretty similar to the Slate study actually. I am not sure how significant those "false facts" actually are when weighed against the more general truth that people accurately remembered. Each of them changed a detail in what was otherwise a true narrative widely covered in the news. I don't think the report on the study is very straightforward about this.

Bush's vacationing at the beginning of Katrina is one example of this, as pointed out above. Another is Obama's shaking Ahmadinejad's hand in April of '09. The study says, "In fact, there is no public record of the two men ever meeting or shaking hands," but doesn't note that in April of '09 there was a big brouhaha about Obama's bowing to the Saudi king. Not the same thing, obviously; but for a person flipping through photos, is it really a big deal if they remember their reaction to what actually happened but don't notice details have been altered? I don't see that as the same thing as manufacturing "vividly detailed, emotionally laden memories of entirely false events"--because the events weren't "entirely false" at all.

In addition, the study quotes participants' reactions to the false events as though the participants were making them up out of whole cloth, while in fact the reactions described were perfectly reasonable feelings about what actually happened at the time (e.g. disgust with the Clintons' racebaiting in the '08 primary, or mixed feelings about Lieberman's strong reaction against the Lewinsky affair).

My reaction, if I'd made the Lieberman error, would have been, "Oh yeah, I was remembering the hearings and not the vote obviously," not "HOLY SHIT I made it all up??!" The whole thing strikes me as a bit overblown.
posted by torticat at 9:13 PM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's interesting, the report actually says they abandoned the Cheney/Edwards "false event" halfway through the study, in part because it had the complicating factor of being "essentially a distortion of the truth rather than a complete fabrication." How weird that they made this distinction about only the one.
posted by torticat at 9:30 PM on February 13, 2013


Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:03 AM on February 14, 2013


Why Politicians Know So Much That Just Isn’t So
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:06 PM on March 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Very interesting articles, thank you!
posted by jeffburdges at 12:33 AM on March 10, 2013


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