Memory is fallible and malleable that can be changed and created a new experience or information. This fabricated or distorted remembering of an event is called a false memory, however, never occurred in reality. Inaccurate information and erroneous attribution sources of an original information causes to recollect entirely false events. Also, the false memory can have profound implications that vivid and lively recollection of memory may reconstruct new memory. In addition, it can be created by poor understanding of the false memory that lead to terrible miscarriages of justice in legal system.
The purpose of this research is to explore the effect of the false memory and the possibilities of its formation. This false memory can be constructed by combining existing knowledge with misinformation or misattribution information. An amount of time existing memories and new knowledge influence human memories to make the recollection entirely false altogether. Especially, planting of misinformation show great effects on childhood false memory. The memory psychologist, Elizabeth Loftus (1997), researches that it is possible to plant the nonexistent childhood memory in adults through the suggestion source.
Her “lost-in-the-shopping-mall” study proves how moldable memory is when people recollect un-factual information. She reveals that suggestion source can lead people to believe that the entire events actually happen to them. Then, she and her colleagues design the experiment, implanting the non-existent experiment to individuals that they had been lost in a shopping mall during one’s childhood. This implantation of the false memory successfully induces them to recollect the false events. They describe their experience using more words and even add description in details.
When they draw the event in their becomes confounded with the suggestion information that you were lost in a mall. This imagine memory embellishes with a piece of actual events, such as being lost in a different place or have seen the mall once, making their recall about 40% less accurate (Loftus, 1997). Another study in laboratory supports false childhood memories about how students remember their child experiences differently (Hyman, Husband, & Billing, 1995). They initially obtain actual events from students’ parents.
Then the students receive one false event out of four events. In this study, Hyman records that students recall 84 percent of true events in the first interview and 88 percent in next interview. Then, 20 percent students remember partially or fully about the false event in the second interview. The reason is that recalling memory is affected by repeatedly received information. This repeatedly recollection is likely to increase people’s confidence in their distorted memory that finally induces to describe pseudo-memory in substantial detail.
Repeatedly imagination exercises show increasing in confidence that the false event actually occurred. When students more times repeat to imagine the event, they are more likely to remember experiencing the false event. According to these studies, occurrence of instilling false memories can be possible in real-world setting. The experienced events and imagined memory incorporate inferences to go beyond direct experience. Since the memory process is complicated, vivid and detailed memory does not mean it is reliable or accurate.
It is often partially or fully inaccurate reconstructions of events. Then, this memory phenomenon greatly influences people’s emotionality, social expectations, implied beliefs of others, or inappropriate interpretation (Steffens & Mechklenbrauker, 2007). Loftus, Feldman, and Dashiell suggest that the false memory becomes stronger and more vivid when enough time has passed that original memory has faded. Due to this, the eyewitness may confuse misleading post-event information and what they have seen. In this study, all witnesses watch a video about the tragedy traffic accident.
Subsequently, half of them are exposed to misleading information about the event and it leads to make an error in these eyewitnesses’ memories. When the researcher asks them whether they see a yield or a stop sign, they say they apparently see the yield sign. They do not recognize that there really had not been any sign. As a result, eyewitnesses who does not get any misleading information describe much more accurate events. Furthermore, the eyewitness testimony strongly establishes the formation of the false memory because the strong suggestion may occur during police interrogations.
It leads to cause of wrongful convictions, through false identification of a suspect recollection. Similar to this study, Loftus (1997) notes Saul M. Kassin and his colleagues’ experiment of falsely accused people’s reaction after they damaged a computer by pressing a wrong key. They initially plead their innocence and deny the charge. But, when a confederate claims that she witnesses these people perform the action, many of them are likely to confess themselves to be guilty.
Confabulated details are consistent with the belief that they pressed the wrong key. Consequently, the false memory shows not only eyewitness testimony induce to support their false evidence, but also, false incriminating evidence induces innocent people to accept guilt and support their guilty feelings for a crime. This study also proves further evidence that human memory does not function as it is like a video recorder that people can rewind and replay (Clifasefi, Garry, & Loftus, 2007).
In real life, another profound implication on poor understanding of the false memory can bring the case of inevitable miscarriage of justice. People with anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem has usually unconscious memories of traumatic experiences that they are victims of childhood sexual abuse. The reason is explained by the Freudian notion of repression: “people wish to forget, therefore, they intentionally repress from the unconscious thought that is inhibited and repressed to protect from further harm by consciously recollecting the event” (Alison,
Kebbell & Lewis, 2006). Accordingly, psycho-therapists uses memory-recovery-technique that helps to develop these clear and vivid repressed memories. During the therapy, therapists consistently explain that patient’s symptom is the only explanation of their unhappiness childhood. However, this technique highly tends to raise the false memory that the people never experience of being victims. Such this experience of abuse is completely created by therapist’s hypnotic regression and guided imagery that their new beliefs are true.
Loftus and Ketcham (1994) does not deny occurring child sexual abuse, but they suspect the accuracy of abuse memory by using memory recovery technique. They then investigate the use of memory recovery technique and role in woman’s development of child abuse memory that lead patients to accuse their parents or perpetrator. However, they find no evidence to support that any child abuse occurred. Therefore, the memory never tends to be existed but is created and truly believed by the victim (Loftus & Ketcham, 1994).
In conclusion, the false recalls of events can be formed in response to misinformation and strong suggestion through repeatedly interview. Providing cues may later be incorporated, by facilitating the match between self-knowledge and possible events. The child abuse, false evidence of eyewitness, misjudgment of innocent people, and other cases in legal system should be considered. Unfortunately, current research still disputes about how to differentiate between true or false memory. However, many previous study help to understand the process by which false memories arise.