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reply to post by Kandinsky
False memory is a very real phenomenon. Its one of those things that is probably more common than we realize. Its actually quite amazing that we function as a society.
I love this article by Oliver Sacks www.nybooks.com... should be required reading.
If the last thirty years have seen a surge or resurgence of ambiguous memory and identity syndromes, they have also led to important research—forensic, theoretical, and experimental—on the malleability of memory. Elizabeth Loftus, the psychologist and memory researcher, has documented a disquieting success in implanting false memories by simply suggesting to a subject that he has experienced a fictitious event. Such pseudo-events, invented by psychologists, may vary from mildly upsetting or comic incidents (that, for example, as a child, one was lost in a mall) to more serious incidents (that one was the victim of a serious animal attack, or a serious assault by another child). After initial skepticism (“I was never lost in a shopping mall”), and then uncertainty, the subject may move to a conviction so profound that he will continue to insist on the truth of the implanted memory, even after the experimenter confesses that it never happened in the first place.
What is clear in all these cases—whether of imagined or real abuse in childhood, of genuine or experimentally implanted memories, of misled witnesses and brainwashed prisoners, of unconscious plagiarism, and of the false memories we probably all have based on misattribution or source confusion—is that, in the absence of outside confirmation, there is no easy way of distinguishing a genuine memory or inspiration, felt as such, from those that have been borrowed or suggested, between what the psychoanalyst Donald Spence calls “historical truth” and “narrative truth.”
Even if the underlying mechanism of a false memory is exposed, as I was able to do, with my brother’s help, in the incendiary bomb incident (or as Loftus would do when she confessed to her subjects that their memories were implanted), this may not alter the sense of actual lived experience or reality that such memories have. Nor, for that matter, may the obvious contradictions or absurdity of certain memories alter the sense of conviction or belief. For the most part the people who claim to be abducted by aliens are not lying when they speak of how they were taken into alien spaceships, any more than they are conscious of having invented a story—some truly believe that this is what happened.
Once such a story or memory is constructed, accompanied by vivid sensory imagery and strong emotion, there may be no inner, psychological way of distinguishing true from false—or any outer, neurological way. The physiological correlates of such memory can be examined using functional brain imaging, and these images show that vivid memories produce widespread activation in the brain involving sensory areas, emotional (limbic) areas, and executive (frontal lobe) areas—a pattern that is virtually identical whether the “memory” is based on experience or not.