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10 Ways Your Memory Is Completely Inaccurate


7
Suggestibility
But false memories also get implanted unintentionally. © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC
But false memories also get implanted unintentionally. © 2015 HowStuffWorks, a division of Infospace LLC

Much like implanting memories, suggestibility involves false memories that make their way into your mind even though a particular event that you recall never occurred. The difference is that implanted memories tend to occur after a more active process (someone asking leading questions), while false memories that form due to suggestibility are often unintended.

Slate magazine showed one way in which suggestibility works through an informal study in 2010. The publication altered or fabricated five photos based on recent political events. (Doctoring photos to test memory has been used by researchers for years.) Study participants were shown three real photos plus a doctored one. They were told all four photos depicted real events, and were asked if they remembered these events [source: Saletan].

While participants remembered the real events much more readily than the fake ones, plenty of folks were positive they remembered the fake events depicted in the doctored photos. For example, 26 percent of participants who saw a doctored photo of President Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reported previously seeing this photo or event. And a full 42 percent were positive they remembered Vice President Dick Cheney calling out Sen. John Edwards during a presidential debate after Edwards brought up Cheney's lesbian daughter, a scene created in one of the doctored photos. Both events, as noted, never occurred [source: Saletan].

In analyzing the results, the magazine also discovered people are more likely to falsely recall events that match their political beliefs. Those who weren't fond of President Obama, for example, were more likely to "remember" his handshake with Ahmadinejad [source: Vitelli].