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Photographs and False Memory: Did I really go for a hot air balloon ride?

November 11th, 2014 1 comment

Have you ever looked at a picture from when you were younger and had absolutely no memory of it? Or have you ever had a memory from when you were young that you’re not sure actually happened? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then you are completely normal and with this rest of us who sometimes have trouble recalling memories from our childhood and whether or not certain events actually took place. If these events never really happened, then why do we remember them?  Memories for things that did not actually happen are called false memories, more specifically implanted memories, and psychologist have been researching false memories for years. Many researchers looks at implanted memories, a phenomenon that refers to participants recalling specific details about “memories” that actually never took place. In implanted memory studies, researchers ask participants about specific events that took place during childhood, such as if they ever got lost at a park. Imagine being a participant in one of these studies. The first day that you come in, a researcher asks you about whether or not you ever got lost at the park when you were younger. You can’t remember ever being lost in the park, so you reply no. You continue to go in to see the researcher for multiple weeks, and every time the researcher asks you about being lost in the park when you were a kid. After a few weeks, you start to remember that actually, you were lost in the park when you were a kid and can remember specific details of being lost. This is how implanted memory studies take place, and by the end of a few weeks, researchers find that most participants start to recall specific details of events that never took place (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995). Crazy, isn’t it?

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