Memory: What happens when we reconstruct our past?

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Our memories are so reconstructive that with continuous suggestion of false memories, we may believe its true, and even recreate untrue events based on what we think we remember. With detail, suggestion, and false reasoning, people have been convinced that they have committed hideous crimes which they have not committed. This is what happened in the Paul Ingram case. After his daughters accused him of sexually abusing them, investigators pushed him to confess. Though he didn't remember it, after several suggestive techniques and pressuring him to "look back into his repressed memories", he confessed to a crime he didn't commit. The police were able to persuade him that he had repressed the memories of harming his daughters, and that if he delved deep enough, he would remember what he did. They told him that he would feel better once he "admitted to what he had done". After being isolated, he eventually wrote a full description of what his daughters accused him of doing, and even added in graphic details of what he thought were repressed memories. After his confession, they put the evidence together, realized that it was literally impossible for him to have done this, and he was proven innocent. His daughters later confessed to making the whole thing up. The power our brains have in reconstructing memories are extremely powerful, and at times dangerous. Be careful what you think you remember. Think to yourself, "did that actually happen," before you tell someone about a memory you once thought you had.


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I still can't believe things like Paul's case actually happened. There was no evidence that pointing to Paul. The suggestive questioning was no different with torturing him to make him confess.
My dad once told me my mom cried after giving birth to me because she wanted to have a boy. When my mom talked with me later, she denied. So my dad described what happened in detail. But according to my grandparents, part of his memory didn't actually happen. Maybe he got the false memory because he knew my mom preferred boys and concluded having a girl made her upset.

The thought that ones mind can alter and create false memories is quite remarkable. In the case of Paul, it was unfortunate that his false memories were so graphic and harmful, lucky for Paul and his family he was not sentenced. What strikes me is that the means by which these false memories were created were unprofessional and unethical. Research has shown that leading questions, such as the ones Paul was asked lead to false memories. I believe that leading questions, although sometimes helpful should not be used to convict a criminal. There are other was of going about getting the information, but tricking them into making up stories is not right.

It's kind of terrifying how much our mind can "fill in the blanks." It makes me question a lot of memories from when I was younger as well as wondering how I can accurately deduce what's 100% true and what may be questionable.

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This page contains a single entry by skogs012 published on April 29, 2012 6:15 PM.

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