A technique both to implant and false memories has been described by researchers.
False memories are a source of great confusion for neurologists and psychologists, but interest in them has greatly increased in the past three decades. They are believe to arise from a need for completeness in memory, as well as other factors such as wish fulfillment. Psychologists have demonstrated techniques to instil false memories in subjects, enabling the process to be studied. Such techniques have also been used to influence witnesses in criminal trials.
Functional MRI studies of false memories indicate the involvement of prefrontal cortex, particularly ventromedial and in the right hemisphere.
The method involves planting a suggestion that a plausible event happened, and then using a trusted source to back up the claim. The study used this method with 52 participants, creating plausible stories from their childhood and mixing in real events. The participants’ parents were asked to back up the memories of the false events, and over a number of sessions, many participants gradually began to believe the stories and some also produced false memories.
The researchers found that they could erase these memories by identifying the source of the false memory, then explaining to them how false memories can be created when people are asked to recall a memory several times.
Interviewing the subjects a year later, the researchers found that 74% of them had either rejected the false memories or forgotten them.
Source: Medical Xpress
Journal information: Aileen Oeberst et al. Rich false memories of autobiographical events can be reversed, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2026447118