Formation Of False Memories

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Have you ever been an eyewitness at the scene of a crime? If you were, do you think that you would be able to accurately describe, in precise detail, everything that happened and remember distinct features of the suspect? Many people believe that yes they would be able to remember anything from the events that would happen and the different features of the suspect. Some people, in fact, are so sure of themselves after witnessing an event such as this that they are able to testify that what they think they saw was indeed what they saw. However, using an eyewitness as a source of evidence can be risky and is rarely 100% accurate. This can be proven by the theory of the possibility of false memory formation and the question of whether or not a memory can lie.

There have been several experiments done to try to prove that false memories can indeed be formed. One experiment, for example, was tried with a 14-year-old boy. The boy was told four memories, one of which was falsely constructed but similar to that of a true memory. The memories that were suggested took place when the boy was about 10 years younger. As the false memory was retold to him, he was asked to explain in detail what he had remembered from that event. Surprisingly, he claimed to remember the event, even though it was falsely created by the interviewer and his brother, and went on to explain what he remember to have happened, details and all. After collecting everything he had said about the four memories, he was told that one of the suggested memories was made-up and he was asked to guess which one it may have been. When he couldn’t decide which one it was, he was told that it was in fact the memory of getting lost in a store. He was confused and had trouble believing the truth.

Similar studies were done to a different set of college students and they tended to have the same results. After giving as much detail about each memory, the students were interviewed about what they may have written done about what they had remembered. During the last part of the experiment, each of the students were debriefed and asked to guess which memory they believed was false.

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