False Memories Occur Even Among Those with Superior Memory

400px-Neuron_Hand-tuned.svgRick Nauert writes at Psych Central News:

Some people have the unique talent of being able to remember daily details of their lives from decades past.

But surprising new research finds that even among this select group of memory experts, false memories occur at about the same frequency as among those with average memory.

False memories are the recollection of an event, or the details of an event, that did not occur. UC Irvine psychologists and neurobiologists created a series of tests to determine how false information can manipulate memory formation.

In their study they learned that subjects with highly superior autobiographical memory preformed similar to a control group of subjects with average memory.

“Finding susceptibility to false memories even in people with very strong memory could be important for dissemination to people who are not memory experts.

“For example, it could help communicate how widespread our basic susceptibility to memory distortions is,” said Lawrence Patihis.

“This dissemination could help prevent false memories in the legal and clinical psychology fields, where contamination of memory has had particularly important consequences in the past.”

Patihis works in the research group of world-renowned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, who pioneered the study of false memories and their implications.

Persons with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM, also known as hyperthymesia) – have the astounding ability to remember even trivial details from their distant past. This includes recalling daily activities of their life since mid-childhood with almost 100 percent accuracy.

The lead researcher on the study, Patihis believes it’s the first effort to test malleable reconstructive memory in HSAM individuals.

Working with neurobiology and behavior graduate student Aurora LePort, Patihis asked 20 people with superior memory and 38 people with average memory to do word association exercises, recall details of photographs depicting a crime, and discuss their recollections of video footage of the United Flight 93 crash on 9/11. (Such footage does not exist.)

These tasks incorporated misinformation in an attempt to manipulate what the subjects thought they had remembered.

“While they really do have super-autobiographical memory, it can be as malleable as anybody else’s, depending on whether misinformation was introduced and how it was processed,” Patihis said.

“It’s a fascinating paradox. In the absence of misinformation, they have what appears to be almost perfect, detailed autobiographical memory, but they are vulnerable to distortions, as anyone else is.”

Read more here.

8 Comments on "False Memories Occur Even Among Those with Superior Memory"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | Dec 16, 2013 at 2:20 pm |

    I always make it a point to leave the world a little better than I found it.

  2. jasonpaulhayes | Dec 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm |

    “You didn’t see anything”

  3. Adam's Shadow | Dec 16, 2013 at 2:59 pm |

    Foiled again, consensus reality!

  4. DeepCough | Dec 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm |

    “The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist…”

    ~Rosalind Lutece, Barriers to Trans-Dimensional Travel

  5. InfvoCuernos | Dec 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm |

    I seem to recall reading this somewhere before…

  6. BuzzCoastin | Dec 17, 2013 at 1:37 am |

    the land of the free
    greatest false memory ever

  7. This is only your memory, I can’t give you new information…

  8. kowalityjesus | Dec 17, 2013 at 3:04 am |

    I have found this to be true when revisiting very old video, e.g. cartoons that made a lasting impression that I only saw once. It has helped me to calibrate a margin of error pertaining to recalled events.

Comments are closed.