Is it possible to implant false memory? This study has proven that it is possible for false memories to be implanted. This is because memories can be altered by existing knowledge, new information, other memory interfering with the formation of new ones, head injury, and the power of ‘suggestion’. It is also hypothesized that memories disrupt each other and this is referred to as what psychologist call ‘interference’. There are two type of interference; proactive interference where old memory disrupt new memory and retroactive memory where new information incorporated into the recollection, adding and altering memory.
For this particular study conducted by Loftus and Pickrell, they are interested in retroactive memory by investigating whether is it possible to implant an entire false memory. There were 24 participants, aged 18 to 53 taken by the students from University Of Washington where 12 students were asked to find a pair of individual each and the pair have to be related to each other and must know about their childhood stories.
For the study, interviews with participant’s relative was conducted to obtain three true events that happened to participants between the age of 6 years old and these events cannot be folklore or traumatic events that would easily be remembered by the participants. After that, the participants were told that they were participating in a study on childhood memory and research is looking into how and why people remember some things and not others. The participants were then sent a five paged booklet, containing four short stories where there are three true events and one fake story. The false story involved the participant being lost in a Mall for an extended period around the age of 5 and found by an elderly woman before reunited with family.
In the booklet, for each page there will be one paragraph on details of each events at the top and the rest of the page are used for the participants to fill in as much detail that they can remember about the event. After the booklet is filled, they were sent back to the researcher. After one to two weeks, they were called for an interview. For the interview, they were asked to recall on the things that they have written in the booklet and to rate clarity and confidence rating on the events. The second interview was conducted one to two weeks after the first interview, using the same procedures.
The findings shows that 68% of participants remembered the true events across the booklet while only 24% remembered the false event. Thus, this suggests that to some extent, false memories can be implemented. It is also proven that some people can be led to believe the entire events happened to them only through suggestions. Therefore, memory can be altered just by suggestions.