Researchers are exploring the possibility that convincing drinkers they had a bad experience with liquor — even if they didn’t — could lead them to drink less.
As surprising as it sounds, dozens of studies now show that it is relatively easy to create false childhood memories. By using suggestive techniques such as presenting apparently personal information or having family members claim that false memories are true, up to 40% of people can be convinced that they experienced events that did not occur.
But if traumatic experiences could be falsely planted, then researchers began wondering if they could seed false memories to trigger helpful, rather than harmful responses. “After decades of studying the creation of false memories, a few years ago we started to ask what are the repercussions,” says Elizabeth Loftus, professor of psychology at the University of California in Irvine. “If I plant a false memory in your mind, does it affect later thoughts, intentions or even behaviors?”
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