When Trick Questions Become False Memories

Just asking if someone experienced a fictitious event can create false memory of it.

It seems that merely being asked about something can, in some cases, lead to memories of having experienced that thing.

Psychologists Miriam Lommen and colleagues studied 249 Dutch soldiers were deployed for a four month tour of duty in Afghanistan. As part of a study into PTSD, they were given an interview at the end of the deployment asking them about their exposure to various stressful events that had occurred. However, one of the things discussed was made up – a missile attack on their base on New Year’s Eve.

Eight of the soldiers reported remembering this event right there in the interview. The other 241 correctly said they didn’t recall it, but seven months later, when they did a follow-up questionnaire about their experiences in the field, 26% said they did remember the non-existent New Year’s Eve bombardment (this question had been added to an existing PTSD scale.)

Susceptibility to the misinformation was correlated with having a lower IQ, and with PTSD symptom severity.

 

Tags: false memory

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Replies to This Discussion

That's pretty believeable. My memory isn't always so solid either, but I'll do what I can with this TV program.

The program would most likely have been on one of the Discovery Networks. An experiment was done involving several people doing a tour of some area, and they take them by a scene they are told to ignore. At that scene you find a man dressed as a guard, and lots of junk laying around including old washing machine parts. The people simply continue their tour.

Several months later they are asked individually to recall that day, and the results were astounding. Memory here varied but some reported 2 guards and they had guns. They appeared to be guarding something like a UFO crash site, and one person says he was even threatened and told they could not go in there.

So much for memory, but this scene was set up in such a manner that the above would be a "logical" conclusion if you have a mindset of believing in such things. Only 1 or 2 people remembered the events of that day correctly.

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