Understanding False Memory Syndrome - 1 -

kaylarStarred Page By kaylar, 14th Sep 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Alzheimer's & Memory

A tri-part series explaining False memory Syndrome with examples. This is Part One.

How I became aware

Some years ago, reading about one of the many cases in which a person positively Identified by an eye witness was released on the basis of scientific evidence, i.e. DNA, I came across FMS (False Memory Syndrome).

I remember taking criminology and the instructor running one of those 'tests'. based on the research of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus.

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus

For decades Dr. Loftus, a psychologist has been considered an expert on memory. One of the early Loftus inspired tests was the 'What colour is the Car?"

This test has been done with endless variations. The most basic is to show a film of an incident, and then divide the class into three groups.

Group one is the control.

Persons will singly enter a room to be interviewed by the 'police' (a student or instructor who is part of the experiement) and be asked the colour of the get away car.

Group Two is the Limited

In this group the 'police' investigator will suggest; "The car was blue or brown?"

Group Three is the influenced

The 'police' will say; "The car was blue, wasn't it?"

Provoking False Memory

In the first group, the 'witnesses' will come up with a range of colours. In the second the majority will limit themselves to blue or brown. In the third group, the majority will agree that the car was blue.

The film will be shown again and the colour of the car is unmistably white.

Three months later, the students will be questioned again. Those in group three will almost always say that the car was blue.


The power of suggestion is so great that those who were tricked by the 'police' into seeing a blue car where the car was white will hold that false memory which will be so powerful it will overwrite the proof.

The results have been repeated over the decades, and you can try it with almost anything.

Loftus most controversial experiment was the Lost in the Mall which has been often criticised, but considering the facts of successful lawsuits, should not be dismissed.

Lost In The Mall

In this experiement parents and other relatives were, in private, asked to provide an event that happened in the patient's life when he/she was very young.

The actual incident recounted by the parents/relatives was replaced with a recounting of having been lost in a Mall.

The narrative described an instance when the subject was five or six years old lost in a shopping mall for an extended period of time before finally being rescued by an elderly person and reunited with his or her family.

The story had details of actual shopping trips and incorporated plausible details provided by the relative.

In the study, 25% of the participants reported to be able to remember this event even though it never occurred. Many provided embellishing details.

Loftus interpreted this to mean that the act of imagining events led to the creation of false memories.

Before You start to argue

It was not until a psycho-therapist was successfully sued for creating false memories that the field of False Memory Syndrome moved from the lab and fringe science into notice.

Once an attorney can prove that the false memory was provoked by the therapist, that the patient was made to believe it, acted upon it to his/her detriment, then the question of whether or not Loftus' research and findings are valid ceases to have impact.

Part Two is linked here;


Dr-Loftus, False-Memory-Syndrome, Hypnosis, Psycho-Therapist, Psychotropic Drugs

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author avatar kaylar
I am passionate about history, culture, current events, science and law

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author avatar Steve Kinsman
15th Sep 2011 (#)

Fascinating. But I must tell you, I know that car was blue.

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author avatar kaylar
15th Sep 2011 (#)

love you steve

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author avatar Delicia Powers
18th Sep 2011 (#)

Very interesting study, thanks kaylar...

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author avatar kaylar
18th Sep 2011 (#)

you;re very welcome.

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