University of California – Irvine
For at least a century, scientists have demonstrated the tricks memory can play. More recently, they have shown that people can be led to develop entire memories for events that never happened – ‘Rich false memories’. In recent work, people have been led to remember non-existent events from the recent past as well as non-existent events from their childhood. People can be led to falsely believe that they have had experiences that are rather bizarre or implausible. They can be led to believe that they did things that would have been impossible. False memories, like true ones, also have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviours. False memories look very much like true ones – in terms of behavioural characteristics, emotionality, and neural signatures. The few differences that do emerge are probably too few to be useful in ascertaining whether real world memory reports stem from true or false experiences.