What is False Memory?

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False memory is a memory of an event that did not take place. The creation and construction of memories has always been a topic of interest in the study of thinking and behavior also known as psychology. Humans not only create false memories, but it is also important to know that the brain contains both the false and true memories. False memories tend to form when people use certain mental experience for a true past experience. For example when someone is asked to describe an event such as a street robbery that happened at a particular time, they almost never provide accurate answers that totally suits objective reality. False recollections happen when individuals take a specific mental encounter for a genuine past encounter. At the point when individuals are approached to portray something that occurred at a specific time, they once in a while furnish precise answers that completely consent to target reality. Their memory will be modified by other post occasion data, experience, or memories.

False memories can be artificially created in humans, and happens more and easily than it is depicted. For instance, information that we receive following a specific event that has been engraved in our recollection, alters our memory of another event that takes place later. It can form naturally or artificially. There have been studies conducted on the topic, which shows the creation of false memories. For example, a study done by Elizabeth Loftus, who is best known for her conducted extensive research on the malleability of human memory, and particularly her groundbreaking work on the creation of false memories. In the experiment known as “Lost in the mall” by Loftus and her colleagues in 1990; researchers demanded a 14-year old boy name Chris to address four of his childhood memories. In those four memories, three of the memories were true except the fourth memory, which turned out to be false. The fourth memory that was considered a false memory was when Chris was lost in a shopping mall. According to Loftus the way she conducted the experiment was by talking to the 14 year old child about his memories. In her study Loftus states “We’ve been talking to your mother, and you mother told us some things that happened to you when you were about 5 years old...your mother told me about you being lost in the mall, frightened, crying, rescued, and brought back together with the family” (Raz 2019). By telling the boy that he was lost in as shopping mall and the way she described experiences that he experienced when he was lost in the mall shows that the the purpose of the study was for Loftus to prove that people can be led to believe experiences that never happened to them, and that people are able to implant false memories, and it is very easy to do so.

Our brain’s ability to significantly change a true event in our sense leads the human brain to forget some of those events that actually took place, and alter them with others. Since memories are not perfect, forming, storing, reclaiming it would be so much easier. Few researchers at Northwestern University conducted a new study on false memories using MRI technology to better understand the way that humans create memory of an event that did not take place. In the study the researchers asked people to remember events that did not take place using pictures. Professor of psychology, and co-investigator of the study states “we measured brain activity in people who looked at pictures of objects or imagined other objects that we asked them to visualize. Later we asked them to discriminate what they actually saw from what they imagined” (Northwestern, 2004). The main purpose of this study was to learn in regards to the activities taking place in the during the formation of false memories. In the study the visual images that were provided for the participant to look at were later falsified due to the participants of the study associating those visualized pictures with the actual picture they saw, and considering those visualized pictures as images that they saw it in reality. According to the professor of Psychology “We learned that the particular parts of the brain critical for generating visual images are highly activated when people imagine images such as those we presented to our study partners” (Northwestern 2004). The three main area of the brain that is involved in construction of false memories are precuneus, right inferior cortex, and anterior cingulate. These areas of the brain were activated, and had a higher response during the study, which was later misremembered. Since the left hippocampus and the left prefrontal cortex are strongly associated with memory; during the experiment those two areas were activated in helping the participant remember the pictures. When producing false memories, one’s brain is able to leave behind traces of memories that were only imagined, but never happened. The brain without knowing associates imagination with the events that actually took place.

The investigation of false memories in people and their development can be useful in different areas, from general brain science hypothesis to legal brain science and psychotherapeutic guiding. False memories are known as memories that are planted using different techniques. According to professor of psychology at university of London “false memories can be advantageous because they reflect the activation of concepts and ideas related to earlier experience, which can aid future problem solving” (Research, 2019). False memories can be associated with both danger and survival. The professor performed a study where he asked a group of people to recall ten words from a list. There were two lists, one list was survival such as “paper” and “table” and another one was danger such as “fire” and “death”. When the professor asked the people to recall those words, some of them said the word flame, which was not indicated in the list. The purpose of this study was to understand how memory when its spread into related concepts, can allow one to form false memory. But according to the professor such memories can aid in future problem solving. The way false memory can help in survival is for example the professor states that “the person who misremembers seeing a predator while foraging for food might be more cautious upon their return to that same patch to gather more food than the person who accurately remembers that only signs of the predator had been present on an earlier visit” (Research, 2019). Imaginary memories are neither good or bad, but in order to determine whether it is positive or negative solely depends on the person and its use of that false memory.

False memories happen when people take particular mental experience for a veritable past experience. Exactly when people are drawn closer to depict something that happened at a particular time. Their memory will be changed by other post event information, experience, or memory. It is very important to remember that individuals recollections of real occasions are constantly adjusted to certain degree by data that pursues. It won’t generally result in generation of false recollection, but it is possible that it could. That is the reason it is particularly imperative to comprehend the idea of false memories, and understanding it’s cause and being able to recognize the difference between false memory and real memory. Since memories are stored by the brain in small set of neurons, understanding how it is stored and formed could one day help researchers and scientist with memory disorders such as alzheimer's disease, which makes the patients sometimes live their life in the past or maybe future and might be associated with false memory formation.

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What is False Memory?. (2020, May 13). Retrieved June 15, 2024 , from

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