Why most of us ‘remember’ events that never happened
London, Dec 8 (IANS) Repeatedly hearing fake events of the past such as taking a hot air balloon ride, playing a prank on a teacher or creating havoc at a family wedding during childhood, may push people into imagining them and believing that which never happened, researchers say.
In a study conducted on false memories, more than 400 participants were suggested fictitious autobiographical events, nearly 50 per cent believed, to some degree, that they had experienced those events.
Thirty per cent of participants appeared to ‘remember’ the event, they accepted the suggested event, elaborated on how the event occurred, and even described images of what the event was like.
Another 23 per cent showed signs that they accepted the suggested event to some degree and believed it really happened.
It can be very difficult to determine when a person is recollecting actual past events, as opposed to false memories, even in a controlled research environment and more so in real life situations, said Kimberley Wade from University of Warwick in Britain.
The study may have significance in many areas such as raising questions around the authenticity of memories used in forensic investigations, court rooms and therapy treatments.
However, misinformation in the news can create incorrect collective memories that can affect behaviour and attitudes of society, the researchers explained.
“The finding that a large portion of people are prone to developing false beliefs is important. We know from other research that distorted beliefs can influence people’s behaviours, intentions and attitudes,” Wade said.
The study was published in the journal Memory.