False Memories

What Are False Memories?

Although memories seem to be a solid, straightforward sum of who people are, strong evidence suggests that memories are actually quite complex, subject to change, and often unreliable. Memories can be reconstructed as people age and also as their worldview changes. They can falsely recall childhood events, and through effective suggestion, can even create new false memories. They can be tricked into remembering events that never happened, or change the details of things that really did happen. Malleable memory can have especially dire consequences in legal settings; highlighted areas of interest are children as eyewitnesses, sexual abuse, and misidentification. One of the more influential researchers in this area, Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California at Irvine, has been known to work on numerous high-profile legal cases including that of serial killer Ted Bundy, the McMartin preschool sexual abuse allegations, indicted lawyer Scooter Libby, among many others.

What You Don't Remember

A person’s malleable memories can entail the very mundane, such as when you second-guess whether you really did turn off the stove. Some memories can entail the crucial, with foggy eyewitness recollections of a crime, perhaps. Research shows that we can be given false information and convinced to believe that an event actually occurred, even if we don't remember any such event ever happening. Given that recovered memories may be genuine, false, or a combination of the two, it is legitimate to question just how much of what you remember is real and how much is just an illusion.



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