Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Can we believe our memories?

01.04.2004


The use of photographs by psychotherapists as memory cues for the "recovery" of patients’ possible childhood sexual abuse has been called into question by a Canadian study. It found that a "staggering" two-out-of-three participants accepted a concocted false grade-school event as having really happened to them when suggestions regarding the event were supplemented with a class photo.



"I was flabbergasted to have attained such an exceptionally high rate of quite elaborate false memory reports," says University of Victoria psychology professor Dr. Stephen Lindsay. His NSERC-sponsored research is published in the March 2004 issue of Psychological Science.

Forty-five first year psychology students were told three stories about their grade-school experiences and asked about their memories of them. Two of the accounts were of real grade three to six events recounted to the researchers by the participant’s parents. The third event was fictitious, but also attributed to the parents. It related how, in grade one, the subject and a friend got into trouble for putting Slime (a colourful gelatinous goo-like toy made by Mattel that came in a garbage can) in their teacher’s desk.


The participants were encouraged to recall the events through a mix of guided imagery and "mental context re-instatement"--the mental equivalent of putting themselves back in their grade-school shoes. Half of the participants were also given their real grade one class photo, supplied by their parents.

The photo had a dramatic impact on the rate at which participants thought they had some memory of the imaginary Slime event.

About a quarter of the participants without a photo said they had some memory of the false event. But 67-per cent of those with a photo claimed to have a memory of the non-event--a rate that is double that found in any other study of false memory of autobiographical pseudoevents.

"The false memories were richly detailed," says Dr. Lindsay, whose research focuses on memory and who co-authored the paper with a team from the University of Victoria and the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

Of those who claimed to remember the Slime event, most did so with just as much confidence as for the two real events.

When asked which of the events didn’t really happen, all but three of the participants said it was the Slime event. Even so, the fact that it was concocted elicited surprised reactions, including the comment, "No way! I remembered it! That is so weird!"

Dr. Lindsay attributes the remarkably high rate of false memory to several factors. These include the plausibility of the Slime scenario (including that a friend was involved), the confidence inspired by the skilled and outgoing interviewee Lisa Hagen, a former student and co-author on the paper, and the role of the photo as both a memory prod and seemingly corroborating piece of evidence.

"The findings support the general theoretical perspective that memories aren’t things that are stored somewhere in your head," says Dr. Lindsay. "Memories are experiences that we can have that arise through an interaction between things that really have happened to us in the past and our current expectations and beliefs."

He acknowledges that the use of suggestive memory "recovery" techniques by psychotherapists has declined since the late-1980s when it hit fad status. At the time, efforts to "recover" repressed childhood trauma memories were encouraged by such popular books as The Courage to Heal.

"But there still are people who use trauma-oriented memory approaches to therapy. And our results argue for caution in the use of any of these suggestive techniques," says Dr. Lindsay. "Results like these support the concern that these kinds of techniques increase the likelihood that people will experience false memories."


Contact: Dr. Stephen Lindsay 250-721-8593 or slindsay@uvic.ca

A PDF version of the article "True Photographs and False Memories" can be found at http://web.uvic.ca/psyc/lindsay/cv/index.html#publications

The published article is:
Lindsay, D.S., Hagen, L., Read, J.D., Wade, K.A. & Garry, M. (2004). "True photographs and false memories." Psychological Science, Vol. 15, 149-154.

Journal Web link: http://

Dr. Stephen Lindsay | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nserc.ca/
http://web.uvic.ca/psyc/lindsay/cv/index.html#publications
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/journals/psci/

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

Im Focus: Optoelectronic Inline Measurement – Accurate to the Nanometer

Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.

New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation

22.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Plant inspiration could lead to flexible electronics

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

A rhodium-based catalyst for making organosilicon using less precious metal

22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>