How Easy Is It to Falsify Memory? How Social Pressure Affects What We Remember

Total RecallFrom ScienceDaily:

New research at the Weizmann Institute shows that a bit of social pressure may be all that is needed. The study, which appears in the journal Science, reveals a unique pattern of brain activity when false memories are formed — one that hints at a surprising connection between our social selves and memory.

The experiment, conducted by Prof. Yadin Dudai and research student Micah Edelson of the Institute’s Neurobiology Department with Prof. Raymond Dolan and Dr. Tali Sharot of University College London, took place in four stages. In the first, volunteers watched a documentary film in small groups. Three days later, they returned to the lab individually to take a memory test, answering questions about the film. They were also asked how confident they were in their answers.

They were later invited back to the lab to retake the test while being scanned in a functional MRI (fMRI) that revealed their brain activity. This time, the subjects were also given a “lifeline”: the supposed answers of the others in their film viewing group (along with social-media-style photos). Planted among these were false answers to questions the volunteers had previously answered correctly and confidently. The participants conformed to the group on these “planted” responses, giving incorrect answers nearly 70% of the time.

Read more here.

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  • jasonpaulhayes

    I’ve had this idea used against me, to devalue paranormal experiences I’ve had.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    I’ve had this idea used against me, to devalue paranormal experiences I’ve had.

  • jasonpaulhayes

    This concept is highly suspect and ripe for abuse as a counter intelligence tactic. But perhaps I’m just a conspiracy theorist and prone to delusions like Hemingway.

    • realnewz

      You should check out the 1998 movie “Dark City”.
      Its a fascinating movie and deals with the implantation of false memories.

  • http://twitter.com/jasonpaulhayes jasonpaulhayes

    This concept is highly suspect and ripe for abuse as a counter intelligence tactic. But perhaps I’m just a conspiracy theorist and prone to delusions like Hemingway.

  • DeepCough

    Actually, this study is not exactly new. If anyone has heard about the Asch Conformity Test, which experimented how conformity affects opposing thoughts, even when the conformist ideas were patently false and the opposing thought was correct. The study demonstrated that, in spite of the persistent incorrectness of the group notion, the opposing thinker will give way for the sake of conformity.

  • DeepCough

    Actually, this study is not exactly new. If anyone has heard about the Asch Conformity Test, which experimented how conformity affects opposing thoughts, even when the conformist ideas were patently false and the opposing thought was correct. The study demonstrated that, in spite of the persistent incorrectness of the group notion, the opposing thinker will give way for the sake of conformity.

  • urza9814

    Does this really show that they’re creating false memories? Because from the summary at least it sounds more like confirmation that people doubt the validity of their own memories when confronted with contradicting evidence. Which seems like it would be a good thing. Especially when the subject is something like details of a film. Films are social by nature; it’s frequently more important to have a shared experience than to actually know what the film was about. Let’s see them ‘falsify memories’ of more important facts, then maybe it’ll be news.

    • RONIN

      The next two paragraphs address this: “But were they simply conforming to perceived social demands, or had
      their memory of the film actually undergone a change? To find out, the
      researchers invited the subjects back to the lab to take the memory test
      once again, telling them that the answers they had previously been fed
      were not those of their fellow film watchers, but random computer
      generations. Some of the responses reverted back to the original,
      correct ones, but close to half remained erroneous, implying that the
      subjects were relying on false memories implanted in the earlier
      session.

      An analysis of the fMRI data showed differences in brain activity
      between the persistent false memories and the temporary errors of social
      compliance. The most outstanding feature of the false memories was a
      strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the
      hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is known to play a role in
      long-term memory formation, while the amygdala, sometimes known as the
      emotion center of the brain, plays a role in social interaction. The
      scientists think that the amygdala may act as a gateway connecting the
      social and memory processing parts of our brain; its “stamp” may be
      needed for some types of memories, giving them approval to be uploaded
      to the memory banks. Thus social reinforcement could act on the amygdala
      to persuade our brains to replace a strong memory with a false one.”

  • Anonymous

    Does this really show that they’re creating false memories? Because from the summary at least it sounds more like confirmation that people doubt the validity of their own memories when confronted with contradicting evidence. Which seems like it would be a good thing. Especially when the subject is something like details of a film. Films are social by nature; it’s frequently more important to have a shared experience than to actually know what the film was about. Let’s see them ‘falsify memories’ of more important facts, then maybe it’ll be news.

  • realnewz

    Check out the 1998 movie “Dark City”.
    Its a fascinating movie and deals with the implantation of false memories.

  • nostalgia

    “I will remember to remember to forget you forgot me”

  • nostalgia

    “I will remember to remember to forget you forgot me”

  • Anonymous

    I
    was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special
    read. I definitely savored every little bit of  it.

    Architect for Commercial in Delhi

  • http://www.spacedi.com/commercial.html Rosa Hills

    I
    was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special
    read. I definitely savored every little bit of  it.

    Architect for Commercial in Delhi

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I’ve watched social pressure alter group memories before. Its more than a little creepy. I’m cursed with a fairly good memory that tests just short of eidetic/photographic. I am also famously stubborn…which has led to some arguments among old friends who remember things that we experienced together quite differently than I do. This includes a fight I barely managed to stay upright through…but which they recall as a win on my part. I should accept their generous version of events…but I know that decades have softened their memory of it in my favor. If I hadn’t bounced off the wall behind me after an uppercut to the jaw…I’d have been on the floor and I know it…and no amount of wishing it were more glorious can make me recall anything differently. And this is true of every less than wondrous moment of my life. I’d love to rewrite my memory and excise the worst parts. I envy people that can do this almost instinctively (although the political ramifications are horrifying.)

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    I’ve watched social pressure alter group memories before. Its more than a little creepy. I’m cursed with a fairly good memory that tests just short of eidetic/photographic. I am also famously stubborn…which has led to some arguments among old friends who remember things that we experienced together quite differently than I do. This includes a fight I barely managed to stay upright through…but which they recall as a win on my part. I should accept their generous version of events…but I know that decades have softened their memory of it in my favor. If I hadn’t bounced off the wall behind me after an uppercut to the jaw…I’d have been on the floor and I know it…and no amount of wishing it were more glorious can make me recall anything differently. And this is true of every less than wondrous moment of my life. I’d love to rewrite my memory and excise the worst parts. I envy people that can do this almost instinctively (although the political ramifications are horrifying.)

  • Anonymous

    “A man is defined by his actions- not his memory”

    –Words of Kuato

  • GoodDoktorBad

    “A man is defined by his actions- not his memory”

    –Words of Kuato

  • RONIN

    The next two paragraphs address this: “But were they simply conforming to perceived social demands, or had
    their memory of the film actually undergone a change? To find out, the
    researchers invited the subjects back to the lab to take the memory test
    once again, telling them that the answers they had previously been fed
    were not those of their fellow film watchers, but random computer
    generations. Some of the responses reverted back to the original,
    correct ones, but close to half remained erroneous, implying that the
    subjects were relying on false memories implanted in the earlier
    session.

    An analysis of the fMRI data showed differences in brain activity
    between the persistent false memories and the temporary errors of social
    compliance. The most outstanding feature of the false memories was a
    strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the
    hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is known to play a role in
    long-term memory formation, while the amygdala, sometimes known as the
    emotion center of the brain, plays a role in social interaction. The
    scientists think that the amygdala may act as a gateway connecting the
    social and memory processing parts of our brain; its “stamp” may be
    needed for some types of memories, giving them approval to be uploaded
    to the memory banks. Thus social reinforcement could act on the amygdala
    to persuade our brains to replace a strong memory with a false one.”

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