Brain Candy

Puzzles, paradoxes, and science to nourish your neurons

How You Remember, How You Decide: Memory Part II

How to create false memories.

Yesterday I posted about how Elizabeth Loftus is able to Jedi mind trick our interpretations of memories, but what about creating entirely new memories?

Actually, making a false memory is pretty easy. Loftus describes a father convincing his daughter she'd gotten lost in a mall when she was five years old. At first, the daughter denied any memory of the event, but as the father provided more fake details-"Don't you remember that I told you we would meet at the Tug Boat"-the daughter began to "remember" and even provide details of her own. Eventually when her father said "I was so scared," she responded "Not as scared as I was!"

Loftus also showed subjects a painting of a country scene and then asked them to remember it: the trees, the waving grain, the barn. Only, there was no barn in the image. Even though subjects knew there was no barn when they looked at the painting, those in whose heads the idea was planted recalled a barn when asked about it a couple weeks later.

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You can probably imagine the implications of false memory in the courtroom or on the therapist's couch (which famously leads to the courtroom). But imagine the power of keyword tagging and false memory in advertising: how do you remember that box of cereal sitting on the grocery shelf?

Brain Candy by Garth Sundem
My new book is EXCITING, FASCINATING, FUNNY, and CHEAP. Reading it will make you SMART and SEXY. Click Here to learn more about Brain Candy: Science, Paradoxes, Puzzles, Logic and Illogic to Nourish Your Neurons.

 

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Garth Sundem is the author of the books Brain Trust, Brain Candy, and The Geeks' Guide to World Domination.

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