Strategies To Reduce False Memories
Past research exploring the use of memory strategies in false memory studies have typically tried to enhance either item-specific recollection or gist memory . Strategies to enhance item-specific recollection tend to require more cognitive effort to execute effectively as they generally require some form of deeper encoding or manipulation of the stimuli . In contrast, strategies to enhance gist memory require relatively less mental effort as the enhancement of gist memory occurs through additional exposure to related information, rather than mental manipulation of it. In the following section, we discuss the application of a variety of strategies to reduce false memories in patients with AD and how the use of these strategies relates to item-specific recollection and gist memory.
What Are False Memories
A false memory is a recollection that seems real in your mind but is fabricated in part or in whole.
An example of a false memory is believing you started the washing machine before you left for work, only to come home and find you didnt.
Another example of a false memory is believing you were grounded for the first time for not washing dishes when you were 12, but your mom tells you it was because you were disrespectful to her and it wasnt the first time.
Most false memories arent malicious or even intentionally hurtful. Theyre shifts or reconstructions of memory that dont align with the true events.
However, some false memories can have significant consequences, including in court or legal settings where false memories may convict someone wrongfully.
Read on to learn more about how false memories are formed, what their impact can be on you and others, and how you can correct them.
Effects Of Masturbation On Memory
There is no direct way in which masturbation affects memory. However, masturbation releases certain hormones in our brain that affect the body. Research suggests that controlled masturbation is good for overall mental health. Not only does masturbation reduce stress and strain, it also helps alleviate pain. Masturbation can negatively impact your body only if you overindulge in it.
In The Context Of Delusion Theories
Recent models of confabulation have attempted to build upon the link between delusion and confabulation. More recently, a monitoring account for delusion, applied to confabulation, proposed both the inclusion of conscious and unconscious processing. The claim was that by encompassing the notion of both processes, spontaneous versus provoked confabulations could be better explained. In other words, there are two ways to confabulate. One is the unconscious, spontaneous way in which a memory goes through no logical, explanatory processing. The other is the conscious, provoked way in which a memory is recalled intentionally by the individual to explain something confusing or unusual.
Conditions Linked To Confabulation
Confabulation is caused by brain damage or poor brain function, but researchers are unsure which parts of the brain are at fault. The frontal lobe or the basal forebrain may be involved. Confabulation occurs with several brain disorders. These are some of the most common.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Confabulation was first studied by a Russian psychiatrist, Sergeievich Korsakoff. He noticed that his clients who overused alcohol often had faulty memories. He gave his name to a condition that occurs with an alcohol use problem. Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is caused by a vitamin B1 deficiency.
Alzheimer’s disease. Those with Alzheimer’s disease experience a range of symptoms. Delusions, such as believing that someone is stealing from them, are common. Provoked confabulations are common in early Alzheimer’s. Spontaneous confabulations can become a serious problem if the person with Alzheimer’s acts on their mistaken beliefs.
Traumatic brain injury. A blow to the head can cause problems in thinking and memory. Confabulation can be a special problem for those with traumatic brain injury. They may misreport events leading up to the injury or make mistakes about other important details.
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Location Of Brain Lesions
Confabulation is believed to be a result of damage to the right frontal lobe of the brain. In particular, damage can be localized to the ventromedial frontal lobes and other structures fed by the anterior communicating artery , including the basal forebrain, septum, fornix, cingulate gyrus, cingulum, anterior hypothalamus, and head of the caudate nucleus.
Confidence In False Memories
Confabulation of events or situations may lead to an eventual acceptance of the confabulated information as true. For instance, people who knowingly lie about a situation may eventually come to believe that their lies are truthful with time. In an interview setting, people are more likely to confabulate in situations in which they are presented false information by another person, as opposed to when they self-generate these falsehoods. Further, people are more likely to accept false information as true when they are interviewed at a later time than those who are interviewed immediately or soon after the event. Affirmative feedback for confabulated responses is also shown to increase the confabulator’s confidence in their response. For instance, in culprit identification, if a witness falsely identifies a member of a line-up, he will be more confident in his identification if the interviewer provides affirmative feedback. This effect of confirmatory feedback appears to last over time, as witnesses will even remember the confabulated information months later.
Who Is Affected By False Memories
Loftus’s groundbreaking research has shown just how easily and readily false memories can form.
In one study, participants watched video of an automobile accident and were then asked some questions about what they saw in the film. Some participants were asked ‘How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?’ while others were asked the same question but the words ‘smashed into’ were replaced with ‘hit.’
When the participants were given a memory test pertaining to the accident a week later, those who had been asked the ‘smashed into’ question were more likely to have a false memory of seeing broken glass in the film.
The Difference Between Confabulation And Lying
Family members of people with dementia who confabulate often become frustrated and may feel like their loved one is intentionally being dishonest and deceiving them. It’s important to understand that confabulation, although inaccurate, is not an intentional choice, but rather an unintentional effect of dementia, whereas lying involves making a deliberate choice to misrepresent the truth.
Understanding the difference may make it a little less frustrating when confabulation occurs.
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Can Confabulation Be Treated
Confabulation won’t go away unless the underlying condition is addressed. Doctors can treat some conditions. For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is treated with vitamin B1. Other conditions lack effective treatments.
Those who live or work with confabulators can reduce problems by using strategies such as these:
- Minimizing distractions
- Allowing extra time for processing
- Reducing stress
The Potential Impact Of False Memories
While we are all familiar with the fallibility of memory , many people do not realize just how common false memory really is. People are remarkably susceptible to suggestion, which can create memories of events and things that didn’t really happen to us.
Most of the time these false memories are fairly inconsequential – a memory that you brought the keys in the house and hung them up in the kitchen, when in reality you left them out in the car, for example.
In other instances, false memories can have serious implications. Researchers have found that false memories are one of the leading causes of false convictions, usually through the false identification of a suspect or false recollections during police interrogations.
False Memories And False Memory Syndrome
Many of us experience false memories without even realising:
Imagine that you are walking past a person in the street and see them clearly for only a split second. Once they are out of view, you might note that they were carrying a satchel. But what color was it?
“Green,” you might think, “Yes, it was green.”
But then self-doubt sets in:
“Or was it the person’s coat that was green – wasn’t the bag blue? Yes, it was an eggshell blue. I remember now,” you may ruminate.
Once you have suggested to yourself this alternative, a false memory may develop and your recollection of events can become skewed.
False memories are a normal occurrence and they will generally have little impact on our lives. In rare cases, however, a false memory can bother a person.
A person may come to believe the traumatic details of a false memory and it can then affect them in their ability to function as normal in everyday life. In such severe cases, the experience has been labelled as false memory syndrome, although there is some doubt as to its existence as a condition.
Why Does It Happen
Dementia can cause people to have difficulty with recognising people, places and things, particularly in later stages. Dementia can also affect peoples memory, so that they might not remember where they left something or why theyre in a particular place.
These problems with recognition and memory can lead to suspicion, paranoia and false beliefs. They might think that strange people are in their house; they might find themselves unexpectedly in a place they dont recognise. Objects might seem to disappear from the place they were sure they were in. Conversations theyre having might not make sense to them. People seek to understand these confusing and worrying events, and might do so by blaming someone or something else.
Delirium can also lead to the appearance or increase in false beliefs or different realities. If there is a sudden change in someones behaviour or thinking, or they appear much more confused than usual, it could be due to delirium. This should be investigated by a doctor immediately .
How can I recognise when a person with dementia is experiencing delusions?
The person with dementia might:
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Sober Memory Tends To Get Hazy Too
To Dr. Mary Clifton, a New York Citybased cannabis expert who wasnt involved in the study, the findings suggest that whether people are sober or high, their ability to recall what they saw found a middle ground just a week later.
Thats so strange, Clifton told Healthline. The sober people lost memory over time.
Thats also because we all lose some memories over time, as our brains decide whats important and whats not, even if that includes details of a crime just 1 week ago.
Clifton says because of how cannabis interacts with the hippocampus a part of the brain associated with memory the findings between sober and high witnesses at a week later merit for more study.
Regardless, she says, as different substances work differently in the brain, finding truth in an investigation should involve considering the state a witness may be in.
I dont think police anywhere should be interviewing anyone who is high or drunk, Clifton said.
In terms of the criminal justice system, the findings may be more helpful to defense attorneys or others who would cross-examine so-called eyewitnesses.
How Misinformation Is Easily Spread
On the internet, almost anyone claiming objectivity or impartiality can disseminate false memories through the dissemination of specious information. Misinformation, or “fake news,” has become ubiquitous through media such as doctored videos and photoshopped images as well as fabricated text. Such misinformation is especially persuasive with audiences who already harbor biases endorsed by the inaccurate messages.
Dementia Delusions And False Accusations Of Elder Abuse
I was fortunate that none of the elders I cared for ever leveled serious accusations against me, even in their severely demented states. Some caregivers arent so lucky, and some fabrications can have very grave consequences. False allegations of elder abuse and neglect arent just emotionally devastating; they can have dire legal and financial ramifications for family caregivers as well.
If reported, Adult Protective Services or the police may investigate allegations of elder abuse. Even if it has been confirmed that a loved one has dementia, making up stories about being mistreated or financially exploited can still trigger a full APS investigation. This is often humiliating for family caregivers and may seem like a waste of time and resources, but elder abuse is a reality for many seniors. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that as many as 2 million seniors are abused in the United States. Proper authorities must look into all reports to protect vulnerable adults.
What Causes A False Memory
Human memory is pliable and easy to manipulate. A distorted memory or the introduction of later, false information can affect how we recall events we experienced firsthand. A person’s existing knowledge can impede and obstructs their own memory, leading to a newly formed, cobbled-together recollection that does not accurately reflect reality. Also, under certain circumstances, a person can be given false information and be convinced to believe that an event that never occurred actually did.
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Dysfunction Of Frontal Networks
The relationship between prefrontal cortex functioning and false memories is nuanced as the PFC is critical for processing gist information and relating information to schemas . Recent models suggest that the neurobiological underpinnings of semantic memory are spread across diffuse brain regions dependent upon the nature of the information , and that prefrontal regions are recruited more heavily during selection tasks than during retrieval tasks . Impairment to prefrontal regions may either increase or decrease false memory depending upon the nature of the task. False memory is reduced, compared to controls, among patients with prefrontal lesions when task demand emphasizes selection and relating information to gist , whereas patients with prefrontal lesions may experience higher levels of false memory, compared to controls, when inhibitory and monitoring abilities are emphasized in the task demand, and ability to relate information to gist is relatively preserved . It should be noted that the PFC includes many distinct subregions and structures, which may have different effects on memory or behavior depending on the precise location of the lesion or impairment .
Positive Effects On The Brain
Hormones that are released:
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False Recall In Older Adults And Alzheimer’s Linked To Attention Not Memory Breakdown
- Washington University In St. Louis
“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.”— Mark Twain
“Our study reaffirms what Mark Twain said years ago — older adults do appear more likely to remember things that never happened,” said David Balota, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a professor of psychology in Arts and Sciences at Washington University.
“It is sad, as Twain said, when our memories ‘go to pieces,’ but Twain may have been wrong when he said that we all have to do it,” Balota said. “Our studies and other ongoing research in the field are beginning to provide important clues about the processes that lead to memory loss in both normal aging and in Alzheimer’s, and about which specific aspects of memory are prone to breakdowns and which seem to remain intact.”
In an invited address June 5, 1999, at the American Psychological Society meeting in Denver, Balota will argue that this study provides further compelling evidence in support of a relatively novel approach to understanding how Alzheimer’s cripples the human mind.
“These findings suggest that the cognitive problems associated with Alzheimer’s might be better conceptualized as a breakdown in attention rather than primarily a breakdown in memory in the classical sense,” Balota said.
Social Recall: Factors That Can Affect False Memory
The brain can be as creative as it is inaccurate when it comes to memory, working to turn made-up stories and childhood emotions into remembered fact
The fallibility of human memory is one of the most well established findings in psychology. There have been thousands of demonstrations of the unreliability of eyewitness testimony under well-controlled conditions dating back to the very earliest years of the discipline. Relatively recently, it was discovered that some apparent memories are not just distorted memories of witnessed events: they are false memories for events that simply never took place at all.
Psychologists have developed several reliable methods for implanting false memories in a sizeable proportion of experimental participants. It is only in the last few years, however, that scientists have begun to systematically investigate the phenomenon of non-believed memories. These are subjectively vivid memories of personal experiences that an individual once believed were accurate but now accepts are not based upon real events.
Confabulation In Dementia Can Feel Like Hurtful Lies
When a person develops any form of dementia, it is difficult for family and friends to witness their diminishing capacity and the unbearable frustration it brings. One of the worst things we dementia caregivers must cope with is the fact that a loved ones brain is broken and may cause them to tell terrible lies about us. Neurological damage can cause patients to make up hurtful stories and level false accusations toward their caregivers. No matter how far-fetched the untruths and accusations may be, a dementia patient believes these things are true. As much as these untruths may hurt, it is important to remember that there is no ill intent; the disease is causing your loved one to fabricate stories.