The Impact of False Memories

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There are many styles of writing, two of which are popular press articles, such as Huston (2019), and peer-reviewed scholarly articles, such as Otgaar, Scoboria, & Smeets (2013). While sharing a basic structure and a similar goal, they differ in writing style, the citation format, and the audience the authors are addressing.

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Huston (2019) discusses how memory has been used as a weapon by the press, political figures, and individuals online against the general population through the creation and manipulation of false memories and nonbelieved memories. Huston argues that the human mind is built for disbelief, and even though an individual may not have belief in an event or fact, the way in which it is presented to us can affect our memory of it. The source of the information, the frequency of exposure to that information, and just being exposed to that information can all play a role in the formation of memory and belief surrounding that information. Huston suggests that no one is immune to the creation of false memories, but there are ways in which an individual can minimize the creation of these false memories; filter out and regulate the sources one consumes information from, question and fact-check the information, and in general, lean towards disbelief.

Otgaar, Scoboria, & Smeets (2013) investigated if researchers could create nonbelieved memories for childhood events in both children and adults through two separate studies. A nonbelieved memory is a memory that was once believed by an individual to have occurred but now believes otherwise. Even though the belief of the event is no longer present, the individual still exhibits qualities of memory in relation to the event. Tests were conducted through multiple interviews. In the first two interviews, subjects were told to describe two events from their past; the first being a true event that researchers gathered from parents of the subjects and a second being a false event created by the researchers. After the second interview, subjects were told one of the events was false and were asked to point out which one. After researchers revealed the truth, some individuals believed the event had not occurred but still had a memory of the event, thus forming a nonbelieved memory. This study emphasizes two key larger implications; one being the importance of taking into account both subject memory and subject belief when evaluating memory reports, and second that in specific instances, the memory of the event and the belief in the occurrence of an event are disconnected.

One of the ways in which these two writing styles are different is the focus and synthesis of the information. Huston aims at pushing a personal agenda by pooling sources to back up his claims but does not provide any primary resources. Otgaar, Scoboria, & Smeets base their paper around the research they conducted to test a hypothesis and use their findings to make conclusions, supported by other peer-reviewed studies.

Citation and reference to other works is another way these two writing styles differ. Scholarly articles are expected to follow certain rules where they need to cite other studies and provide examples of other studies to help support and back up their claims. These studies need to be cited in text as well as compiled at the end of the article. The popular press style of writing does not follow any set rules and often does not cite either in text or after the article. Studies are mentioned but no structured formatting is required by the author. This difference in practice is likely due to the audience that each article is focused on addressing.

The authors address different audiences through their writing styles. As mentioned earlier, the scholarly article is written in a formulaic way following set guidelines. This is meant to address a specific community and is often written in a style not easily digestible by the everyday consumer. The popular article is the exact opposite. This is a style that is meant to reach a broad audience and often sums up or mentions scholarly articles pulling broad ideas from them without going into the details of the studies. This style of writing is clearly meant to be read quickly and easily by a wider readership.

Although these two writing styles have differences including writing style and synthesis of information, the inclusion and citation of references, and the audience the authors are trying to reach; they also have commonalities. Both styles aim to address a goal and do so by presenting evidence through personal opinion, studies done by other authors, or primary research conducted by the author. The authors of both articles aim to sway readers into believing the argument or hypothesis they have presented in their writing. To address these arguments, both articles set up their writing in similar structures.

The basic structure of both writing styles follows the same pattern of introduction, body, and conclusion. Beginning with the introduction, the author proposes a question they aim to address over the course of the article and the answer that they believe is correct. Huston (2019) asks if memory can be weaponized against individuals. Otgaar, Scoboria, & Smeets (2013) ask if nonbelieved memories for childhood events can be experimentally created in both children and adults. Both studies then use a body of text, marked by headers, to answer these questions by introducing different research and information on the subject. The conclusion of the articles ends with a summation of the information gathered and how it supports their answers to the original question.

Conveying information from the author to the reader can be a difficult task. These different writing styles both hold merit for different reasons and can be used as effective writing styles in different contexts. The appropriate time to use either style depends on the audience you are attempting to address. Due to its molded structure, the use of in-text citations, and the rigid writing style a scholarly article such is best used when addressing a specific community, usually in the scholarly field of study that the article addresses. Especially when conducting primary research intended to push the envelope of a specific field. Popular press articles are better used when addressing an everyday nonspecific audience due to its ease of reading and occasional direct mention of the reader. These types of articles are easily shared and posted across social media to push agendas.

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The Impact of False Memories. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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