02/10/2011 by Josephine Rose
So, do you remember that time you got lost in the mall? You were with your parents when you started walking off towards the toy store, next thing you knew, they were gone… No?
Hello again, readers. I’m sorry for the late post, but as promised, this week’s blog will be about the study conducted by Wade et al. (2002). They did a pretty wicked experiment where in they actually tried implanting false memories in their participants’ head. If you want to read about the whole study, their paper is entitled “A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories”.
If you remember, (I’m not trying to plant any false memories this time, you can review my last blog here) false memories can occur under three conditions.
First, an event must be plausible. In the false memories experiment, they got their participants to believe that as children, they’ve been to a hot air balloon ride, which is totally possible for people who’ve grown here in New Zealand.
Next, contextual details are needed to make the story believable. What the researchers did was to edit childhood photos of the participants, you know, the classic cut and paste. That probably wouldn’t work today, given the huge availability of photo editing tools, we’ve already grown weary and alert of pictures that are “Photoshop-ed”. But interestingly, it did for the participants of those study. They were shown two other authentic pictures from their childhood, along with the one edited photo.
The participants were then interviewed over a period of 2 to 3 weeks. As more time passed by, the participants misattributed the external information given to them as actual internal memories. In the later interviews, you can see them incorporating real personal facts into the story.
Here’s an example of an interview from a participant:
(From the interview during the first week)
So what can we learn from all this (asides from how we can possibly trick our younger siblings into doing the chores because we did the chores last week… but I know none of you would do that because you’re all good people!)?
Our memories, no matter how vivid they may seem sometimes, is not the most reliable thing out there. It’s not like you can replay your life and remember something in exactly the same way that it happened.
Live for the now, I guess, because no matter how hard you try, you can never experience the same thing twice.
I would like to acknowledge one of our Psych 305 lecturers, Mr. Reece Roberts, for being the one who told us about this cool study. Thank you!