Re: False Memory

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Tue May 28 1996 - 16:00:29 BST

> Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 17:46:58 +0100 (BST)
> From: "Fernando, Nisha" <>
> how can we know if a memory is real?
> it could be argued that we can't actually know if a memory is real or
> has been shown in experiments by loftus and coan that memories
> can be 'created' by merely suggesting to a subject that a certain
> experience occured in their past.

Style: Remember (1) To punctuate. Start sentences with Capitals and
leave a space after periods. (2) ALWAYS use a spell-checker before
emailing or printing coursework...

> in one set of experiments subjects
> were told of a day,when they were about five years old,on which they
> became lost in a shopping centre.subjects were found,over time,to
> actually 'remember' more of their so called experience,and in more
> detail,hence they were inventing the whole experience.

Mis-remembering, rather than inventing. See Dennett & Kinsbourne on
Orwellian and Stalinesque revison. The false memory question should also
be linked to the problem of introspection and the other-minds problem.

> when told
> afterwards that it was in fact a false memory subjects found this very
> hard to believe.some conclusions drawn from this study tryed to explain
> how producing false memories could be possible.firstly,it was suggested
> that subjects would remember different occassions on which they became
> lost and added the details of the suggested experience to these,hence
> coming up with a single memory.also perhaps they remembered details of
> shopping centres previously visited,and people seen and produced these
> details as details of the suggested experience.
> also perhaps memories of hearing about someone else's experiencs of
> getting lost were almost 'adopted' as their own memory,after being
> prompted with the suggestion.lastly,the mere suggestion of the
> experience could have left a memory trace in the brain,which became a
> real memory of a real event. these findings would suggest that we could
> not know if a memory was real.the only way of knowing would be,if the
> actual experience was,for instance,recorded on a video tape.then it
> could be proved that the incident actually happened.

Right; and this not only produces problems for courts of law and for
psycotherapists, but it also underscores why introspection is not a
reliable source of information.

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