Is it possible to change human's memory

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From all the concepts I learnt from Psychology 1001,the most interesting one I find is that people can erase and modify others' memories. I believe I would remember this study for a long time, because the result drawn from it is very impressive. Changing one's memory does not sound very practical in our daily lives, but there are instances showed that people can, and already have changed others' memories. According to the class and the article "Memory's Future" written by Elizabeth F. Loftus & William H. Calvin, it is possible to change details of one's memories for previously experienced events, and people can also plant entirely false memories into the minds of unsuspecting individuals, even if sometimes the events would be implausible or even impossible. Memories can be fixed and changed over time and held with a great degree of confidence.

First, people can change others' memories by using suggestive methods. A study showed that 33% of the subjects were convinced when they were children they had nearly drowned and had to be rescued by a lifeguard. Another example shows that people can remember seeing Bugs Bunny at Disney Land in their early life after seeing fake Disney ads that mentioned Bugs Bunny. This research shows subjects can be suggested not only to have fake memories of normal events, but also events are particularly horrible. As a result of the suggestive methods, the subjects are sure about the fake memories suggested by the others.

The reason why I find it interesting is that the suggestive methods are found capable of leading to false beliefs and memories, and they can make the subjects so sure about the fake memories. Subjects tend to have strong emotions and reactions when they are told the memories are suggested and created by others. They have been convinced that these memories have actually happened during the process of receiving suggestions. Subjects are also imaging these fake memories and become more confident when engaging in the imagination inflation phenomenon. It is interesting to think that we can actually plan an idea into someone deep mind and make that person believe in it.

Learning from this discussion also changed my point of view of myself. One of my precious memories to date my earliest memory is that when I was about 5, I remember I won a bet over my dad, and the result was that I was getting a new toy from him. However, in my memory, my dad denied the result and told me the bet never happened. I still remember that we quarrel on a train about if I actually won the bet and if I should get the toy. After reading this article, I am not sure if I ever won a bet, or if the bet has ever happened. However, I was deeply convinced that I did won and I should get the toy, and with the time goes, I become more confident about this event. Even when I was quarreling with my dad a couple of years after that event, I was still using that "you once promised me buy me a toy and you never did it, and therefore you are a liar". Now I can still remember the picture that my dad was sitting on a chair, facing the window, and I was asking him why I did not get the toy. Clearly, my reactions are strong towards this event, and I believe I was right.

At the end, I think this new finding about change others' memories can influence the world dramatically. It can help with people who have mental diseases but also can be used for illegal purpose. I think it is very important to have an accurate recollection of past experiences in our everyday lives. Even though it is hard to tell the difference between the real memories and fake memories, it can decide one's life in certain situations. The example in the class mentioned that a person has gone to prison for the fact that fake memories are used as testimonies.

Reference
Elizabeth F. Loftus & William H. Calvin, "Memory's Future," http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/MemoryFuture.htm

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This page contains a single entry by wang1926 published on December 4, 2011 9:45 PM.

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