It seems that information acquired after some event can merge with the original memory, which could lead to inaccurate recalling.
People rely on why that remember basically entire life. Everything that we experience is “stored” somewhere in our memory unless we forget it as time passes by. However, sometimes forgetting isn’t the only process that interferes with what we know. People are occasionally prone to making some mistakes unconsciously, such as misconnecting parts of previous events or having a recognition of an event that hasn’t occurred. Experiments conducted not so long ago have proven that human memory is not always trustworthy. Here are some of them.
Car crash experiment
Elizabeth Loftus is probably the biggest name it the area of false memory. She was mainly investigating the truthfulness of the eyewitness testimonies. In 1974, she conducted a study with John Palmer, where they exposed university students to videos of car accidents. Participants had to estimate the speed of the cars, but they were not asked the same question. When researchers included a word “smashed” while asking students about the speed, they reported a higher estimated speed of the cars when compared to the situations in which researchers used verbs such as “hit” or “contacted”. Therefore, the verb in the question insinuated information about the speed, that systematically influenced the participants’ memory of the accident. Moreover, this study was followed by another one, where students saw a video of the accident and had to answer some questions one week later. Those who were asked a question with a word “smashed” also more frequently reported seeing non-existent details, such as broken glass on the street. It seems that information acquired after the event can merge with original memory, which could lead to inaccurate recalling.
False memories can sometimes have detrimental consequences. In 1975, a psychologist named Donald Thompson was accused for raping a woman. However, at the same time as the incident he was being interviewed in a TV show, so he had an alibi. Interestingly, he was talking about memory distortions at a time. Can you guess what actually happened? It appears that the woman who accused him was watching the interview on TV when an intruder broke into her house and raped her. Therefore, she misattributed her memory of famous psychologist from the TV screen to the face of the rapist. Although she accurately remembers seeing Thompson’s face at the time raping occurred, the victim got the source of the memory wrong and thus accused an innocent man. In addition, despite the fact that events like this are extremely rare, memory distortions are not. In the everyday situation, we might not even realize how often our recalling is incorrect, no matter how secure we are in our memories.