If you thought implantation of false memories was only possible in movies like Blade Runner 2049, think again. False memories can be implanted into human minds through various techniques but over the years, it has run the risk of extracting false confessions in criminal cases. In the latest study published earlier this week, scientists have come together to finally provide a solution to disentangle the false memory from a real one. Published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America by psychologists from the United Kingdom and Germany, this study shows how for the first time in a realistic setting, it is possible for humans to implant false memories and then even reverse that process.
The study explains that the team of scientists was able to reverse the false memory implanted in the subject’s mind by means of two ecologically valid strategies. The study began by first successfully implanting false memories for two plausible autobiographical events that were suggested by the students’ parents, along with two true events. Over the course of three repeated interviews with the psychologists, the subjects developed false memories of the suggested events under minimally suggestive conditions and even more so using massive suggestions.
The team of scientists then used two techniques to reduce false memory endorsement andsource sensitization, in which interviewees were alerted to possible external sources of the memories, like family narratives. The other method used was called false memory sensitization, in which the subject was alerted to the possibility of false memories being inadvertently created ininterviews delivered by a new interviewer. This method reversed the false memory build-up over the first three interviews, where scientists observed a return of false memory rates in both suggestion conditions to the baseline levels of the first interview.
The study also mentions that one promising practical implication of this method is that false memories can be substantially reduced by easy-to-implement techniques without causing any collateral damage to the true memories of the subject.