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Current Research on False Memories


The human memory is susceptible to fallibility and malleability. Researchers have overtime run researches and surveys to ensure different aspects of false memories have been grasped to ensure progress in the different fields. Within this report, the Introduction ensures the readers understand the main objective of the writing. The background will give various descriptions according to the authors and researchers overtime. It will create the background to understand the need for carrying out research on false memories. The body of the report will contain various key points which will shed light on the different aspects of the false memory research. Thereafter, the summary which will give a short description of the report content and the conclusion.

Current Research on False Memories

False memory varies from ordinary memory errors. Since everyone is susceptible to memory failure, false memory is much more than a mere error; it entails a degree of certainty in the memory’s authenticity. While everyone sometimes encounters memory lapses, false memories are unusual in that they convey a definite remembrance of something which did not occur. Many investigations throughout have been undertaken to in various aspects within the topic of recollections and false memories. The researchers will rapidly outline the core study on false memory in this publication, and then will present contemporary advancements in this area, encompassing new assumptions, new technique, and recent report groups. Several of the research in this collection address the behavioral repercussions of constructing false memories. Certain study makes an intentional attempt to differentiate amongst false and true memories with the purpose of creating tools that may be applied in court or other contexts to determine whether a given remembrance is accurate or erroneous.

Background of the Research

Shaw and Porter (2015) employed a cautious definition of psychological condition that was based on prior research. According to them, it is not about recalling or mixing up specifics of something that we encountered; it is about recalling things that we would never encounter in the first instance.

According to Hyman and Billings’ (1998) criteria, individuals demonstrated false recollections only when their accounts had key inaccuracies (of leaking punch) and when their explanations and embellishments were accurate. Garry & Gerrie (2005), adopted a similar concept, in which respondents are required to describe the important event in detail and offer explanations. Similarly, Porter et al. developed the most sophisticated and effective definition of false memory to date (1999). From his experiment, respondents were taken into account to have false memories in about their study if they revealed memorizing the event, consented with or integrating evidence cues provided, given details in addition to the three cues provided, did not acknowledge the instance instantaneously, and disclosed during providing feedback that they had not mentioned the occasion well outside lab.

According to Schacter et al. (2007), Roediger’s perspective to implicit and false memories has been mostly cognitive, and has helped recent research focus on the false memory and its processes. True memories need the ability to draw from the past, collect information, recall prior experiences, and then integrate (reorganize) them with additional info and knowledge in order to re-encode these pieces and create a new memory. However, sometimes, malfunctions in this system result in memory mistakes, which contribute to the construction of erroneous (false) memories.

Progressively, research scientists and experts have established that there is a highly significant type of memory in the formation of false memories, which is known as the emotional memory. Intuitive reports such as assessment scales, objective measures such as physiological responses such as pulse rate and dielectric strength, and monitoring of actions such as facial expressions can all be used to quantify emotional reactions. In this regard it is important to note that, different researchers have brought to light how false memories are formed, created, and identified, and this concept will be assessed and analyzed later within the report.

Foundations of False Memories

False memory research was motivated by a major rift in psychology. In the early 1990s, a developing field of trauma studies collided head-on with an older field of memory recall and, in distinctive, disinformation studies, which demonstrated that remembrance is sensitive to a range of errors that can wreak havoc on the legal system, particularly in the judicial process (Scoboria et al., 2017). As shown in laboratory research conducted globally, the recollection is susceptible to errors as a result of sensitivity to post-event data such as leading queries and reports from others (Jaeger et al., 2016). In this regard, false memories have garnered more attention in the field of mental health during the last decade. From the different research studies done in the fields of psychological health and law, it is critical to note that, emotions have been highly implicated in the development of false memories. Researches have revealed that certain psychotherapy approaches focused on the recovery of emotions and thoughts in children might elicit intense recollections of events that never happened, such as purported occurrences of sexual abuse during childhood. These children’s memories may be incorrectly altered. In the legal realm, the effect of emotional on cognitive performance may jeopardize the administration of justice, as a witness to a crime, infringement, or victim of violence may experience memory distortions (Kaplan et al., 2016). However, the association involving emotion and the generation of false memories is hard to ascertain using anecdotal recollections since a careful examination of the information returned and the intricacies of the actual event is virtually impossible (Laney & Loftus, 2013).

It is however important to note that, false memories may arise in everyday life as well, not only in neurotic or traumatic conditions. For instance, it is true to say that natural conversations can acts as a source of false memories among children. In essence, concerning the veracity of children’s testimony, just one clear and obvious assertion can be made: not all claims made by kids are truthful. To make it clear, it is evident that exact precision or the vivid remembrance is not the typical purpose of memory in daily life. The majority of episodic remembering occurs for social objectives, such as bonding and fostering closeness with family and friends, and may accomplish these goals even when memories do not accurately reflect the past. Indeed, a great deal of ordinary life fosters some level of unfaithfulness. Overstated, contrived, or even made-up tales might be more entertaining or humorous to discussion partners than true accounts. This tendency to inflate personal anecdotes may be more prominent in youngsters, given their predisposition for deception and adults’ readiness to play along. This concept brings false memories into play which can be articulated with precision and are not actually true.

False memories are a result of the way recollections are formed in the brain. Adults’ erroneous recollections of comprehensive, emotive, and self-participatory events are starting to be understood via research. To begin with, there are societal pressures on people to recall. For example, researchers may place some pressure on survey respondents to generate memories. Second, when individuals are experiencing difficulty recalling, memory building by visualizing events may be actively encouraged. Finally, people might be persuaded to disregard the validity of their constructs.

False memories are more likely to be formed in the presence of certain external influences, whether it be in an unconventional manner, a therapeutic environment, or during regular activities (Conway & Loveday, 2015). False memories are created by blending true memories with the substance of other people’s ideas, which may result to individuals losing track of the original source throughout the process. This is a classic case of origin confusion, wherein the information and origin become indistinguishable. Naturally, the fact that we may implant false memories of childhood in certain people does not mean that all memories that occur as a result of suggestion are false. In other words, although experimental research on the fabrication of false memories may cast doubt on the authenticity of long-buried experiences, such as repeated trauma, it does not refute them. Without verification, there is nothing that can be done to assist even the most seasoned examiner in distinguishing genuine memories from suggestively planted ones. The particular methods by which these misleading memories are created remain unknown.

Memory Creation, identification and reversion

According to recent study undertaken by experts at the University of Portsmouth 2021, erroneous memories may be corrected (Oeberst et al., 2021). However, according to researchers, memory is unreliable and adaptable in humans. This generally creates a problem in various contexts where memories are important, for instance forensic contexts, especially since individuals may incorrectly recall events having legal ramifications that never occurred. Despite the critical need for treatments, investigation on when and how rich erroneous autobiographical experiences can be undone beneath realistic circumstances, that is, employing reversal procedures applicable in real-world situations, is essentially nonexistent. However, researchers have continually worked towards establishing the links to employ reversal in real world situations.

The first assumption stressed in fabricated experimental psychology is the healing nature of memory, which was previously emphasized by Bartlett. A second reason for inaccurate recalls of events is that unclear situations are comprehended and then stored in terms of pre-existing narratives. Occasionally, in the absence of subsequent fabrications, these episodes might be recalled wrongly.

False memories arise when individuals think they have encountered an object or event when they have not. A technique first devised by Deese and lately revised and updated by Roediger and McDermott has received significant theoretical and experimental attention due to the extremely high degrees of false recalling it creates. Individuals examine word lists in the Deese/Roediger–McDermott (DRM) model. For example, a list may include the words weary, bed, alert, sleep, fantasy, night, blankets, snooze, slumber, snoring, pillow, peacefulness, yawn, and sleepy. Each phrase in a predefined array is associated to a non-presented or ‘lure’ phrase for example sleep. On a resultant old–new memory task consisting of the researched words for example tired, dream and unfamiliar concepts which are either contrary to the extensively investigated words (– for example butter) or associated to the analyzed words (example sleep), participants frequently incorrectly report that they extensively researched the connected new phrases, even asserting to’ remember’ detailed information about the items. Indeed, the false recognition rate for comparable new vocabulary is often equal to, or very near to, the true identification rate for studied terms.

Recent studies have started to elucidate the elements behind this false memory phenomenon. Various studies have demonstrated that individuals are more inclined to incorrectly identify a related new term when they had studied a large number of, instead of a few, of the item’s companions previously.

Strategies to undo false memories

From the investigations and research conducted, it is clear that researchers have identified various techniques to undo false memories. Participants were told, as part of the initial method used in the studies conducted by Oeberst et al. (2021), that recollections are not always generated by individual perspective, but may occasionally be impacted by external variables such as a picture or a relative’s tale. They were then interrogated about the four memories’ origins. The second strategy entailed reminding them that continually asking them to recall something might elicit false memories. They were urged to reconsider their memories of the incident in light of this. According to Dr Blank, the outcome was as follows: Researchers were capable of lowering respondents’ false beliefs by increasing their consciousness of the potential of cognitive distortions, encouraging them to reflect critically on their remembrances, and bolstering their confidence in their own point of view. Additionally, and perhaps most crucially, this had no effect on their capacity to recall real events.

They developed these strategies with the primary goal of using them in real-world circumstances. By encouraging individuals to depend according to their own truth instead of on external sources, researchers demonstrated that they could assist them in recognizing what may be incorrect or misremembered – something that might be quite valuable in forensic contexts.

According to researchers, some of the mechanisms that can be used to reduce false memories include; encoding influences. This strategy involves reducing false recollections to improve the coding and subsequent recall of potentially specifying information. Allowing an individual to learn and remember connected keywords repeatedly, for example, lessens selective memory inconsistencies in the DRM concept. McDermott provides people with a set of connected terms and then challenged them to recollect them five times in a row. She discovered that false recall of the associated lure phrase decreased from 57% in the first investigation trial to 32% in the subsequent trial. By contrast, throughout study–test trials, recollection for examined words increased (Schacter et al., 2007). Participants correctly remembered around 40% of the terms on the first recall test and almost 80% on the final memory test (Schacter et al., 2007). Kensinger and Schacter, as well as their colleagues, discovered a similar trend when it came to true and false recognition.

Also, highlighted by the researchers is the retrieval influences. Remembering is not just a question of engaging stored knowledge passively. The kind and volume of data remembered is impacted by a variety of circumstances, such as how individuals are encouraged or orientated to test their memory (Steffens & Mecklenbräuker, 2007). Interestingly, multiple studies have revealed that merely altering the structure of the recollection inquiry might increase participants’ chance of making false recognition mistakes.

Research Theories in the field of false memories

Memory theories are shown to be effective in explaining and attempting to explain erroneous memories. On a general level, it is believed that traditional views of remembering may easily account for new findings regarding false memories. While analyzing false memories, one of the hypotheses is the Fuzzy Trace Theory (FTT) (Brainerd & Reyna, 2019). FTT is a concept of cognition initially developed by Valerie F. Reyna and Charles Brainerd that uses dual-trace concepts to anticipate and describe cognitive processes, especially those involving memories and cognition. The concept has been applied to fields such as cognitive psychology, development of human, and sociology in order to explain phenomena such as false memory and its advancement, statistical likelihood decisions, medical decision – making process, perceived risks and prediction, and judgment preconceptions and absurdities.

Fuzzy-trace theory (FTT) is a model of the interaction between memories and advanced cognitive processing, rather than a paradigm of false memory. It began as a reaction to studies regarding the relationship between the correctness of answers to reasoning issues (for instance, decision making, rational inference, and quantified judgment) and memories for the background knowledge that decide whether solutions are legitimate (for example, the premises in deductive-inference problems). Thus, false memories may develop in two distinct ways, according to fuzzy-trace theory: as a consequence of retrieving gist memories whenever verbatim memories are required, or as a consequence of retrieving the incorrect verbatim memories. Due to the fact that these memories have distinct features, no two memories should function identically. In contrary to instead cognitive processing theories, the findings indicated that the critical memory basis for argumentation is having the correct interpretation of underlying facts—getting the gist—and thus, in most cases, retaining their precise substance is not necessary. Surprisingly, reasoning correctness was shown to be substantially self – reliant of memory accuracy.

Secondly, the Skeleton theory is an additional theory that has been used by researchers to explain the concept of false memory (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995). The theory elucidates how humans acquire and remember memories. Each process has several components, and these components clearly demonstrate how individuals may color recollections with erroneous information, prejudice, or misattribution.

It begins with the memory’s acquisition, or formation. The initial step in obtaining a memory is concentrating on a memory that will ultimately be stored. People are overwhelmed with impulses all over them; they must concentrate and selectively recall the signals that make it into their memory. Once the stimulus is chosen, individuals make explanations to explain their observations. This may be as basic as “there is a cup on the table.” This is the point at which semantic memory becomes critical. The last step of this procedure is generally not something that individuals are entirely aware of. It entails deriving significance from their remarks using prior knowledge or views. This last stage of the procedure may result in a remark similar to this: “Joe’s cup is on the table.” “On the stool is a delectable cup of coffee.”

There is a strong possibility that a person’s observations will become much more accurate when they add assertions and context to their recollections. However, this occurs even before time has elapsed, and the individual must recollect that observation.

The second element of the skeleton theory describes what when someone is required to recollect a memory. The individual remembers the memory in response to the stimuli on which they concentrated. (They may have observed a cup on the table but missed the pastry next to it or the voice saying, “Do not touch that tea!” They carry with them all of the experiences and impressions that have accumulated before to and after this observation. The second component of memory recall is sharing the experience to others. They “create a picture” of the situation using the sensory information they gathered and the interpretation they derived from it. As a consequence, the recollection is either correct…or inaccurately accurate. The skeleton theory demonstrates how easily erroneous information or prejudice may infiltrate our memory as we learn and remember it to others.


In psychology, a false memory is when someone remembers something else that did not occur or recounts it incorrectly. Numerous processes have been proposed to underpin a number of kinds of false memory, including agreeableness, activation of linked information, assimilation of disinformation, and source misattribution. Psychologists Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud were the first to examine the false memory phenomena. Freud was fascinated with remembrance as well as the many ways in which it could be understood, used, and controlled. According to some, his work had a profound effect on contemporary memory research, notably in the area of false memory. Pierre Janet was a prominent French neurologist who contributed significantly to the research of memory. Janet aided in the spread of false memory with his theories on dissociation and memory recovery through hypnosis. In 1974, Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer performed a study to determine how language influences the genesis of false memory. The trial consisted of two distinct experiments, as explained within the paper.

Some of the manifestation and types of false memories discussed within the paper include word lists, staged naturalistic events, and relational processing. By providing patients with a continual list of words, one might elicit false memories. When respondents were shown a revised version of the listing and asked whether the terms existed on the prior list, the researchers discovered that the individuals did not accurately identify the list. When the two definitions included semantically relevant terms (for example, sleep), it was even more probable that individuals misremembered the first list and produced false memories.

Memory recovery has been linked to interpersonal processing in the brain. When two factors have been associated (with relation to false memory, for example, when relating a testimony to a preceding event), literal and gist descriptions are used. Verbatim corresponds to specific occurrences, such as I do not heat coffee since I was burned by coffee when I was five, and gist aligns to general conclusions, such as I dislike coffee due of the way it tastes. In accordance with the fuzzy-trace hypothesis, which proposes that false memories are kept in gist presentations (which may recover both correct and incorrect memory), Storbeck & Clore (2005) sought to determine how mood changes influenced false memory retrieval. The individuals’ emotions were modulated using the Deese–Roediger–McDermott paradigm (DRM). Moods were either shifted toward the pleasant or the unfavorable, or remained unchanged. The findings indicated that a more depressed affect increased the accessibility of crucial data preserved in the gist representation. This would suggest that when a person is in a bad mood, false memories are far less prone to developing.


From the report it is evident that researchers have continued to be actively involved in the research of false memories. This can be attributed to the fact that false memories are linked to different fields such as the forensics, and the legal systems. Scientists have been able to overtime to create false memories, and undo the false memories through various strategies which has proved to be beneficial within the diverse fields. Consequently, theories have been formed to support and understand the various concepts within the research of false memories. The theories highlighted include the skeleton theory, and the Fuzzy Trace Theory. This research has constantly aided in accomplishing different tasks in different fields and has been helpful in reaching the intended goals.


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