False Memories and "Shutter Island"

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Movies for years have referred to psychological concepts in order to proceed with their stories, often tampering with memory in some way or another. Most recently we've seen "Inception", and even movies like "Sucker Punch" take a crack at at least loosely basing parts of their story on psychological facts, whether it's the mental escape referenced in "Sucker Punch" or the potential implantation of ideas in "Inception". We've all seen the media project these ideas on the screen and it continues to astound us.

jpgAmong these processes we have viewed and adored (or hated, depending) are suggestive memory techniques. These have been demonstrated perhaps most recently in the film "Shutter Island", and for those of you who have yet to see the film and still want to, NOW would be the time to discontinue your reading. In "Shutter Island", a man named Teddy is shown as a U.S. Marshall attempting to solve the case of a missing patient on Shutter Island, which was a facility for treating the criminally insane.

However, in the end you find out that Teddy is in fact himself a patient of the facility, and the U.S. Marshall act has been a construct of his mind which was then further encouraged, so to speak, by the doctors at the facility in an attempt to help him realize that the U.S. Marshall act was an illusion, that he had, in fact, committed a terrible crime and they were simply trying to get him to realize the truth and who he really was. In order to "encourage" the illusion, the entire facility set up a 2-day-long roleplaying act, in which they came up with the patient escapee scenario and let Teddy believe he was a U.S. Marshall and gave him full reign to "solve" the case. In the end they break the truth to him, showing him fact after terrible fact to try to get him to, well, face the facts.

According to our book, however, and the section about implanting false memories, IF this scenario with Teddy had actually happened it could have actually harmed his ability to realize the truth. They were, essentially, encouraging false memories, false realities, which as our book has told us has been proven to cause people to misremember events that had happened.

There are many, many more represented in this movie, particularly the idea of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which we don't learn about until chapter 12, and Delusional Disorder, which we don't study until chapter 15, though if you would like a sneak-peak at how these are portrayed in "Shutter Island" check out THIS article. However, this particular psychological idea I believe is more or less accurately portrayed. After this dramatic roleplay Teddy briefly states that he believes their version of the truth, but ultimately drops back into his U.S. Marshall self, and unwilling to give up that version of his reality. In a way, though no doubt his Delusional Disorder plays a part, it shows that all of this work to promote his version of reality and then shatter it with the truth only promoted his delusion.

All in all, though I question how broadly this concept would be able to be applied. Would it be possible to potentially get someone to believe an entirely different past than what they truly experienced? Possible to replace every previous memory with something different? And what sort of effects would that have on a person? Could it change who they are entirely?

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This page contains a single entry by orcut013 published on October 23, 2011 10:30 PM.

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