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What´S False Memory? Essay

1692 words - 7 pages

When people think of memory, they most likely picture it as a perfect replica of the actual events that took place in their life time that can be replayed in their head over and over again in perfect sequence. But, memories can be very deceiving and inaccurate, misleading people into thinking they did something or were somewhere when they actually weren’t. These memories that we believe are real and are actually made up memories that the brain creates are called false memories. False memories feel so real to people that they in fact believe that they are what actually happened in their past. People rely on their memory every day when dealing with everyday occasions and in some instances ...view middle of the document...

Since memory can be altered and manipulated so easily, it makes eye witness accounts in serious cases not completely liable when trying to uncover the truth about what actually happened. This is evident in on of Elizabeth Loftus’ experiments evolving different scenarios that were shown on video and then asking the participant questions about what they saw in the video. It turns out that many of the participants answers were altered just by the way she would phrase the questions being asked. For example, she talked about the difference in answers she got from participants when examining a car crash using the words “smashed” and “hit” to manipulate how people saw the incident. When she asked about the incident while using the word “smashed”, the participants would estimate on average that he cars were going faster than when she used the word “hit”. And a week after seeing the video, those who were asked using the word "smashed" remembered seeing broken glass, even though there was none in the film. In the same study she would ask the participants if she saw “a broken headlight” or if they saw “the broken headlight”. When she would use the word “the” instead of the word “a” the participants were more likely remembering the light being broken even though it wasn’t (Wilson, Jacque). This is a great example of why people’s memories can’t be expected to be completely reliable and trustworthy for important information.
The same cause of false memory can also be seen when dealing with criminal cases and trying to uncover suspects or what happened during a criminal act. In many cases, victims of crimes or witness get so caught up in the act of the crime or the scenario they are in that they can’t positively recall exactly what took place of who the suspect was. Which makes it easy for their memory to be distorted through suggestion. In some cases, police officers can influence the witness or victim by asking them questions or giving them information about what happened that can lead their memories in directions making them believe something happened or somebody did something even if they didn’t or it never happened. This idea of suggestion can also be seen when trying to identify a suspect in a police line-up. One of the studies Elizabeth Loftus did showed that even facial recognition can be manipulated if the witness or suspect overhears police or other witnesses give false or misleading information about the physical characteristics of the suspect. When this happens, it is more likely that the person trying to identify the suspect will remember the suspect looking like what was described to them rather then what they remember out of their own experience Wilson, Jacque). This case of false memory can be very problematic and could lead having the wrong person get sentenced to jail because of misleading information from witnesses and having people testifying in court using false information from their memories.
These examples of people’s memory being...

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