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False Memories Can Influence Behaviour

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Even when human memory is working normally, it is still frequently unfaithful. Instead of the total recall of, say, a video camera we get something more like a symbolist, or even abstract painting. Sights, sounds and smells are refracted by our minds into memories that often tell more about us than the original events they apparently record.

Psychologists have found many processes that act like lenses, creating distorted memories of original events. These processes include things like cognitive dissonance, the consistency bias and misattribution. But what power do these distorted or false memories hold over the mind? How far are they able to weave themselves into the tapestry of our lives? In short: can false memories affect our everyday thought and behaviour?

According to the results of a new experiment reported in Psychological Science, false memories could have many and varied behavioural consequences: just like ‘real’ memories, they may well be able to reach forward to the present and dramatically change how we think and behave.


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