Do we, and why, have fake memories?


I remember reading in a school textbook many years ago about a woman who was given a picture of a soldier and was told to remember it well. A month later, she was shown that same picture, but she insisted that it was not the same picture: the soldier in the first pic was prettier and of a higher rank.

People I spoke to claim that I’m wrong about this and that I must have misremembered something, but wouldn’t that prove my point?

Anyway, do we have fake memories? And why?

In: 0

Our brains do this to help make sense of our environments. This phenomenon is related to how we can read a sentence written without vowels, or how our eyes have natural blindspots and our brains fill in the rest. It’s also why an eyewitness tesitmony can be argued if enough time has passed.

Our short-term memory is VERY accurate, but it doesn’t last long. It can become long-term memory but our brains need a reason to do this. The first time a human walks it’s short-term but our brains encode it as long-term memory because it’s useful.

More banal things we can remember, but if they don’t have any attachment to other memories, survival, or are just boring, fade over time. This is where the brain fills in the gaps and creates false memory.

You’re thinking of the work of Beth Loftus. Here’s one example. [TED]( The very ELI5 reason for this is basically that our memories aren’t like a computer where they’re written and you access them. They’re malleable and can change and basically it’s an active process of reconstruction. One early example from her work is she used different words to describe a car crash participants were in (smashed vs hit), it changed their estimates of how fast they were going.