The Debate on False Memories

False memories or FM are likely due to problems storing and reassembling the relevant parts correctly.

Memories are also reconstructions, so some misremembering may occur. Memories are malleable. Imaginations of other people’s recollections can change memories. People cannot rely on memories. Memories build identity. Memories can be temporarily unavailable. Alzheimer patients do not realize that anything is missing. Memories can become scrambled, while attempting to retrieve something. Memories can be partially distorted. Thousands of people arrested for serious crimes were wrongly convicted in the United States in one year alone, a decade ago. Memory resembles a synthesis of experiences. Misinformation could contaminate the memories of witnesses about events that they have experienced. One could make people believe that a childhood experience had occurred, even if it never happened. Memories can be insinuated by suggestive techniques, such as fake photographs. People can develop beliefs and memories for events that did not happen to them. They can do this when fed strong suggestions, such as “your family told us about this event”. They can do this when induced to imagine the experiences. Big changes in autobiography can happen fast. Attempts to distinguish the false memories from true ones have shown differences in confidence, vividness or amount of detail, or differences in lateralized brain potentials. Moreover, many false memories have been expressed with great confidence. Memories of victims and witnesses can be false even though they believe them to be true. Having paper handy is the best course of action to write down everything that can be remembered before witnesses talk to one another. This activity strengthens the memory and protects it from later contamination. Memory distortions can also contribute to failures to convict a guilty person, because the jury might view their entire testimony as unreliable. Scientific research into memory has the potential to minimize this problem. Information from psychological scientists could help to keep the people in power from making decisions based on memory misconceptions. Scientific knowledge could be shared with individuals through workshops for mental health professionals, training for police, seminars for lawyers and judges, and judicial instructions.

In conclusion, memory is prone to errors. The memory system can be infused with compelling illusory memories of important events. These grand memory errors have contributed to injustices that could have been avoided. Memory is born anew every day.

The article “Processes underlying developmental reversals in FM formation”, reviewed evidence of developmental reversals in false-memory formation and proposed that this phenomenon depends on the development of gist processing. A complete understanding of development reversals is possible by characterizing the role played by complementary or opposing processes. Future research is suggested. Young children reliably exhibit lower FM rates than do older people. Gist processing shows developmental changes in middle childhood. The effect of gist processing on FM during middle childhood is counteracted by developmental increases in opposing mechanisms producing no net change in FM formation. One such mechanism is recollection rejection, the process through which the recollection of an experience identifies the nonoccurrence of a semantically related false event. One way to understand changes in the contribution of gist and opposing processes to FM formation is testing the neurodevelopment correlates of the DRM effect. Another way is to use longitudinal designs to test within-person changes in the contribution of gist and recollection rejection processes to false-memory effects. Gist processing manipulations cause FM. Steep increases in FM rates result from the operation of additional processes involved in memory performance.

In sum, there is a need for an overarching model of all processes underlying false-memory formation. This article offered evidence of the existence and frequency of developmental reversals in false-memory formation. The insights that are emerging from this research can provide new knowledge about the way in which false memories develop and about the basic cognitive processes underlying these errors.

Recent studies challenge that FM illusions increase across development as children learn to establish meaningful connections across items. The alternative conceptualization of the development of FM illusions is the associative-activation theory (AAT). AAT provides an account, of the development of FM illusions, as reliable as the FTT. The previous article says that younger children are less susceptible to false memory illusions. The purpose of this commentary is to explore FTT’s assumptions about what develops in the development of FM and to present an alternative, AAT. The author hypothesizes that either AAT or FTT is more reliable. According to FTT, opposing verbatim and gist memory processes drive all of memory development. The presence of verbatim reduces and the presence of gist increases false memory rates. Developmental changes in false memory rates involve alterations in children’s gist processing. As this skill increases with age, so too does children’ susceptibility to false memories. According to FTT, FM development is the ability to connect meaning relations across multiple exemplars. There are two issues with this proposition. One problem is the possibility that young children connect meanings across different events of the same category during encoding but cannot execute retrieval strategies that output similar items together. A second problem is the influence of similarity on true recall. Memories are dissociated in childhood. When studied lists are consistent with children’s knowledge base, there are near-adult levels of false memories. Regardless of age, the more one knows about a domain, the more likely it is that false memories will emerge. Children do not experience adult levels of false memories. Both true and false memory rates are determined by access to concepts and their associations in representational space. Age-related increases in children’s false memories are caused by changes in representational structures that alter the speed and automaticity with which children use associations that mediate false remembering. In tasks used to assess false memories, the similarity between concepts that rise false recollections is multidimensional. Direct proportionally corralled, the more dimensions that overlap, the more likely it is that items will be falsely remembered. Both FTT and AAT make similar predictions. To discriminate between them, when associative activation is contrasted with gist connectivity, associative activation is a predictor of both true and false memory production, whereas gist connectivity is a predictor of true memory. Children’s false memory rates stay intact. Because effortful processing decreases FM rates, children’s false memory rates increase with age with access to associations in representational space. Both capacity and effort affect developmental changes in false memory illusions. Associative activation is critical in false memory production. Data strongly suggest that age trends in false memory illusions are related to increases in the direct activation of associative links. In conclusion, because the developmental mechanisms identified in this theory are well established in a variety of other, developmentally continuous phenomena in memory and cognition, there is no reason to suppose that the AAT cannot also account for the development of false memory illusions.

In the article titled “False memories for end-of-life decisions”, the objective is to test people’s false memories for end-of-life decisions. The testing measure is the Life Support Preferences/Predictions Questionnaire. This is an empirical, longitudinal and quantitative Study. In the first study, older adults decided which life-sustaining treatments they would like if seriously ill. They decided twice, one year apart. During the second time, older adults and their self-selected surrogate decision makers attempted to remember the older adults’ decisions of the first time. During the second study, younger adults decided twice about the treatment, 120 days apart. During the second time, younger adults attempted to remember their first time decisions. The number of participants who falsely remembered that their initial treatment decisions were the same as their current decisions. In the first study, older adults falsely remembered that the majority of their initial decisions were the same as their current decisions; surrogates falsely thought that the majority of older adults’ decisions were the same. In the second study, younger adults falsely remembered that most of their initial decisions were the same as their current decisions. Age by itself cannot account for people’s false memories of their end-of-life decisions. In conclusion, the results have practical implications for policies that encourage people to make legal documents specifying their end-of-life treatment decisions.

Ultimately, the human mind is the most powerful tool humans have. The mind is powerful beyond limits and it is best to use it in a positive way. Sometimes false memories can be a suppressive defense mechanism that is healthy and helps overcome obstacles in life. The public relation and advertisement industries use photographs to induce or suggest people to buy and consume, which is another form of false memories, used in a negative way.

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