More than half of people will believe fake memories they're told, study finds

If you're told you went up in a hot air balloon as a kid, there's a pretty good chance you'll believe it.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

People can be tricked into believing fake childhood memories.

About half of the people looked at in a recent study believed a false memory they were told to some degree – like taking a hot air balloon ride as a kid, playing a prank on a teacher, or causing problems at a family wedding – researchers at the University of Warwick in London found.

The researchers analyzed results from eight published false memory studies that involved 423 people, with their results published this week in the journal Memory.

They found that if people are told about a completely fake event and repeatedly imagined it happening, about half of us would think it actually did happen. Here's the breakdown of how vividly people remembered the made-up event:

About 30 percent of the people seemed to remember the fake event, and sometimes even elaborated on how the event occurred or described what the event was like. (That's the "false memory" pie piece above, which is then broken down to show the extent of what they remembered to the right.)

Another 23 percent showed signs they accepted the fake memory on some level and believed that it really did happen, but not to the extent as those who fit into the "false memory" category.

"We know that many factors affect the creation of false beliefs and memories – such as asking a person to repeatedly imagine a fake event or to view photos to 'jog' their memory. But we don't fully understand how all these factors interact. Large-scale studies like our mega-analysis move us a little bit closer," Dr. Kimberley Wade, who worked on the study, told ScienceDaily.com.

Wade concluded that it's quite hard to determine when a person is remembering a real memory or something that didn't actually happen. That's pretty alarming for some professionals (like lawyers, doctors and psychologists) who rely on people's accounts of their own history.

In one particular case that's made recent news, four Chicago teens who were wrongfully convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in 1994 say the police coerced them into confessing. The four were released after DNA results proved their innocence, according to the Chicago tribune.

Now, their lawyers say they have an FBI report of a police officer admitting that the men were "fed information by Chicago Police and coerced into making false confessions," the paper said.

Next Up

1024px-Hudson,_Wisconsin_9

St. Croix County GOP chair resigns after incendiary post on official website

John Kraft sparked controversy with his 'Prepare for War' post on the party website earlier this month.

ann kim

Ann Kim's new restaurant, Sooki & Mimi, to open in February

The James Beard Award winner is the brains behind Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, and Hello Pizza.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 1.32.19 PM

Firefighters rescue worker after trench fall in Rochester

The construction worker fell about 15 feet.

gray wolf

Grand Marais mayor's dog survives attack by wolves

He heard his 65-pound dog "screaming bloody murder" and then saw the wolves chasing her.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 12.04.55 PM

Minnesota's COVID vaccine appointment site goes live

Huge demand was expected when the site went live at noon.

emily ford

Duluth woman is hiking 1,000-plus miles on the Ice Age Trail this winter

She could be the second person ever to finish a winter-thru hike of the Wisconsin trail.

coronavirus, covid-19, icu

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Tuesday, January 19

Two days in a row with fewer than 1,000 new cases.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.52.12 AM

After fire destroyed their house, couple forced to euthanize beloved dog

The couple's daughter has launched a fundraiser for her parents.

Screen Shot 2021-01-19 at 10.16.14 AM

Investigation after teacher accused of lewd act during distance learning

No charges have been filed yet and the staff member has not been identified.

cook county schools

Investigation after assistant principal displays "joke" Gadsden flag during announcements

"My apologies to anybody who was offended by that part of the snake that was on that comic and it's been taken down."

Related