Study: Memories can be planted

eAwaz Health

London – In a study, published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, the team of researchers found that false memories of autobiographical events can be planted. It highlights techniques that can correct false recollections without damaging true memories. According to Hartmut Blank from the University of Portsmouth, “believing, or even remembering something that never happened may have severe consequences. In this study, we made an important step in this direction by identifying interview techniques that can empower people to retract their false memories.”
The researchers recruited 52 participants for a study on ‘childhood memories’ and with the help of parents, implanted two false negative memories that definitely didn’t happen, but were plausible. Along with two true events, which had actually happened, participants were persuaded by their parents that all four events were part of their autobiographical memory. They were then asked to recall each event in multiple interview sessions. By the third session, most believed the false events had happened and, similar to previous research, about 40 per cent had developed actual false memories of them. The researchers then attempted to undo the false memories by using two strategies. They were asked to revisit their event memories with this in mind. The result showed that “by raising participants’ awareness of the possibility of false memories, urging them to critically reflect on their recollections and strengthening their trust in their own perspective, we were able to significantly reduce their false memories. Moreover, and importantly, this did not affect their ability to remember true events.”