As Time Goes By . . .; May 1997; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 2 Page(s)
Remember that terrible fight with your best friend when you were seven years old? Be careful. In recent years, psychologists have shown that memories of long-ago events can be altered--intentionally or otherwise--by a psychotherapist or detective. The disturbing implications for criminal justice have stimulated scores of studies of "false-memory syndrome."
Curious to see just how difficult it is to muddle one¿s memories of reality and fantasy, psychologists Henry L. Roediger III and Kathleen B. McDermott of Washington University have been asking volunteers to remember words in specially constructed lists. They have discovered they can make most people remember-- at least for a day--things that never happened. Scientific American here offers a bare-bones version of an experiment described by McDermott in the April 1996 issue of the Journal of Memory and Language, so that readers can produce robust false memories in their friends and family right in the convenience of the home.