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Science & Technology

Most of us recall events that never happened

By T.K. Randall
December 11, 2016 · Comment icon 32 comments

How many of your memories aren't real ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Sba2
A recent psychology study has revealed that it is not uncommon for people to recall non-existent events.
The research, which involved 400 participants, was conducted by Professor Kimberley Wade and colleagues at the University of Warwick, England.

The study focused on the formation of false memories - recollections of things that hadn't actually happened at all. For the purposes of the research these included going on a hot air balloon flight as a child, pulling a prank on a school teacher and causing trouble at a family wedding.

To produce these memories, researchers spoke to each of the participants about the events as if they had actually happened. Afterwards around 30% of those taking part seemed to have vivid recollections of the fictional memory and could even elaborate on specific details.
Counter-intuitively, showing photographs from the event seemed to prevent false memories from forming. The researchers speculated that "such photos may serve to constrain imagination during efforts to recall the event, thus leading to lower memory formation."

"As participants move from saying 'I do not remember that' to 'Now I remember...,' they must report additional imagery or otherwise elaborate beyond the suggested material," the study authors wrote.

"Thus, approximately one-third of participants showed evidence of a false memory, and more than half showed evidence of believing that the event occurred in the past."

Source: CBS News | Comments (32)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #23 Posted by third_eye 8 years ago
My most recent personal experience was that one day I woke up and still half asleep had that inexplicable persistence to rummaging for my 'iPad and iPhone' Went on for about a half hour and then I realised 'What the hell ?' I've never had one or the other before and even if I did have the money I'd never buy one, the only thing I had that was apple was an iPod 3 Gb which I gave away to a teen for her birthday present. Took me another hour or so till I realised I was dreaming about looking for those things which I remembered from another dream that I had about having those things ... yeah I was... [More]
Comment icon #24 Posted by White Unicorn 8 years ago
It's the reason that when you have a crime witnesses, they aren't supposed to talk to each other and write what they saw immediately.  As far as making up stuff, gossip media etc induces false memories because they fill in details true or not and spread stories.  I always remember the class where a professor demonstrated to us why we can't believe hear say or trust memory. We had a little written story and told it to the first person in private , who told it by memory to the third person on so on to about 15 students in total. The last  person told the story to the whole class and the first... [More]
Comment icon #25 Posted by paperdyer 8 years ago
I work with a guy that does that to himself.  He's had many conversations with many people that never happened. It's always just he and the other person.
Comment icon #26 Posted by XenoFish 8 years ago
I think this is a great excuse for all us guys who forget to do something.  "Well I thought I did that."  "That wasn't me, you're misremembering."
Comment icon #27 Posted by Codenwarra 8 years ago
For years I sometimes related a story of how a friend of my mother's had her car stolen from her garage sometime about 1980 and was certain that my mother had told me it originally.  But she denied it.  I have no idea where I got it from and no way to check if it had any truth at all. This effect has to throw doubts on supposed witnesses of events that might have happened decades ago, or maybe they didn't happen at all.      
Comment icon #28 Posted by Avatar Samantha Ai 8 years ago
What about the capital of Israel? I always thought it was officially Tel Aviv but Israel now claims Jerusalem even if other countries do not....
Comment icon #29 Posted by jmccr8 8 years ago
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. jmccr8
Comment icon #30 Posted by AustinHinton 8 years ago
I have recently heard about this theory, the Mandela Effect, as it is known. I think its basis is rather floppy, it is VERY easy for someone to mis-remember a quote and to unintentionally pass the mis-quoted quote onto others. Even films that make homages to famous quotes sometimes get them wrong, muddling peoples memories even further. The most well known examples are "Beam me up, Scotty" and "luke, I am your father!", neither of which are actually said in their respective films. But they are so commonly said that way that people can forget that's NOT what the actual quote is. Similar to the ... [More]
Comment icon #31 Posted by ChaosRose 8 years ago
I know this can happen, and you don't have to be lying.  I had the very unfortunate experience of having to describe a rug at my Mother's house to police for a very unfortunate reason. Now, I'd been to that house plenty of times and had dinner at the dining room table right on top of that rug. Do you think I could remember what color it was? Nope. And then they pulled it out and I had to identify it, and I was like...oh yeah...that's what color it is. Why didn't I know that?  I grant you, there was significant trauma going on in my life at that moment, but still. I thought I should have been... [More]
Comment icon #32 Posted by Stiff 8 years ago
I was reading this article yesterday and this thread reminded me of it. http://www.newstatesman.com/science-tech/internet/2016/12/movie-doesn-t-exist-and-redditors-who-think-it-does Now it's not a movie I would've watched in the 90's and probably wouldn't have remembered it anyway but when I mentioned it to my other half, she was convinced she'd seen it. When I mentioned some details that were commented about the film she said straight away "That's right, I remember that". (I'm guessing this was 'coaxing' her memories rather than triggering them).  I'm pretty sure that if it had existed ther... [More]


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