New York Magazine:
Memory’s a pretty fluid and complex thing. We don’t always remember specific details of an event well, and what details we do remember can be influenced by stuff that happened after the event itself. This is all pretty standard when it comes to memory research. What the authors of a new paper in Psychological Science just pulled off, though, takes things to a whole new level: They were able to convince study participants they had committed a crime that was completely fabricated.
Julia Shaw and Stephen Porter of the universities of Bedfordshire and British Columbia, respectively, got permission from a group of Canadian undergraduates to send surveys to their primary caregivers in which the caregivers were asked to provide details of negative, emotionally charged events (animal attacks, losing money, and other stuff like that) the students had experienced when they were younger.
Then, with these details in their hands, the researchers interviewed the students three times, with each interview lasting for about 40 minutes. Some were asked to remember things that had actually happened to them — the animal attack or whatever — while others were asked to remember details of a crime they hadn’t actually committed.
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