False “Recovered” Memories or Real Abuse? (University Lecture)

Uploaded 12/11/2020, approx. 49 minute read

Welcome back survivors. This is the third in a series of lectures about memory, so I would encourage you to watch the first lecture, Identity and Memory.

The second lecture, which I posted a few minutes ago, has to do with how to remember trauma, traumatic memories, and are they different in a meaningful way to regular memories? How are memories of trauma stored? How they are formed? How they are retrieved? And when we remember trauma, do we really remember the trauma itself? The facts? The emotional overlay? Our reactions? A narrative? False memories? A concoction? A piece of fiction? What's going on?

Trauma memories, especially trauma memories elicited in therapy, can we trust them? Is the patient merely trying to please the therapist by inventing a traumatic event? Is there an interaction between therapist and patient whereby the therapist amplifies the patient's predicament and suffering, encourages the victim's stance? Victimhood?

You see, victimhood pays. The longer the patient believes himself or herself to be a victim, the more money the therapist makes online and offline. There's a whole industry of coaches and therapists online who intentionally foster perpetual victimhood in people who had been exposed to abuse, maltreatment, mistreatment, and so on. Sinister. Nothing short of sinister.

So today we are going to focus on false memories, but I do encourage you to watch the previous two.

Now those of you who have attended my live lectures know that I love to illustrate my points with excerpts from movies. Anything from Three Faces of Eve to American Psycho.

Regrettably, the pandemic has put paid to this as well. So I apologize for the dryness of the material.

In live interactions in the classroom, it's totally different.

This segment, this is the second part of the second lecture and it's in satisfaction of one credit on the psychology track of SIAPS and addressed to the students in the Department of Psychology in Southern Federal University was still on the Russian Federation. So enjoy the ride.

Today we're going to discuss a very very controversial subject.

False memories or real abuse.

There are two types of recovered false memories.

It's when the alleged victim, alleged sufferer, denies, alters, or minimizes personal involvement in and contribution to the process of abuse. When there is a denial, alteration, or minimization of the abuser's role as well, any reframing, any rewriting of the incident of abuse or process of abuse, that's one form of false memories.

And another form of false memories is when patients, victims, recall in perfect detail in full color false incidents, typology, or pattern of abuse.

The false memories usually arise within therapy.

When the victim of abuse refers to therapy, if the therapist tries to convince the victim that the abuse she had suffered is much bigger than what she's describing, or that she had suffered abuse that she simply does not remember, whose memories she had repressed, this may give rise to false memories.

The patient tries to please the therapist.

Most patients are codependents or people pleasers. Those who have been victimized by abuses are gullible, suggestible, amenable to hints, suggestions, and so it's much easier to convince them that something had happened when it hadn't, or that some behavior which could have been utterly innocuous or innocent is actually abusive.

This is not to imply that memories of abuse are false.

Those of you who watched the previous part know my position. I believe that memory is divided in two parts. Core memory and tangential peripheral memory.

Core memory of trauma, core memory of abuse is immutable, unchangeable, solid, and true.

I don't think it's possible to falsify the memory of the very existence of abuse.

It is possible that memories regarding the details of the abuse, peripheral memories, memories about the background, colors, tastes, smells, circumstances, sentences said, locations, other people involved, these memories can be falsified, but not the very fact of the abuse.

That's the core memory.

So this raises the question where is this core memory stored and why?

If the core memory is stored, the peripheral or tangential memories are amenable to falsification and transformation.

Victims of abuse are usually exposed to gaslighting and to confabulation.

Abuses are typically narcissistic or psychopathic, or they have other mental health issues.

Now, these kind of people are, in the majority of cases, highly dissociative. They are discontinuous.

And so what abusers do, they confabulate. They try to bridge the gaps in memory by coming up with narratives, with stories, with pieces of fiction that are plausible somehow, but they're not real. They're not true. Confabulation makes sense. It sounds probable. It sounds possible, but it's never true.

So being exposed to constant confabulation by the intimate partner preconditions the victim to false memories.

She is immersed in an environment that is false, in a cult-like setting, or in some shared psychotic disorder, or in some shared fantasy. And she has to suspend her disbelief, her judgment and her opinion, herself, her identity and her own memories in order to fit in and to conform to the totally fantastic imaginary environment.

Confabulation generates conditions. I would even say it's a form of operant conditioning.

The victim to mistrust and distrust her own recollection and to try to compensate for it by confabulating herself.

Another pernicious process is, of course, gaslighting, because gaslighting is psychopathic. It's when the partner intentionally and deliberately tries to undermine his victim's trust in her own sanity, in her own reality testing, in her own proper judgment of what's true and what's not. This is also a process which leads into serious gaps in memory, dissociative artifacts and processes, and desperate attempts to compensate.

So the double whammy of gaslighting and confabulation in typical abusive relationships, this double whammy encourages disorientation, dissociation, and the formation of false memories, some of them compensatory, confabulatory.

Confabulation is a memory error defined as a production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or others or the world without the conscious intention to deceive.

And there's a very important distinction between confabulation and false memory. They're often conflated and confused, even by professionals.

A lot of the controversy surrounding false memory syndrome, a controversy that started in the 1990s, has to do with a lack of distinction between core stable memories and tangential peripheral shifting malleable memories and the confusion between confabulation and false memory.

False memory refers to cases in which people remember events differently from the way they had happened, or in the most dramatic case, remember events that never happened at all.

False memories can be very vivid and held with high confidence. It is usually very difficult to convince someone that the memory in question is wrong.

False, counterfactual, never happened.

In June 2020, in the Academic Journal of Personality and Individual Differences, volume 159, there was an overview published, and I would like to quote from it, evidence on the relation between personality traits and false memories is scarce and partly contradictory.

For example, extroverts have been found to be less suggestible to induced memory distortion through the misinformation paradigm. However, extroverts tend to produce higher amount of spontaneous false memories through the Dis-Rödiger-McDermot paradigm, which we will discuss later.

Whether extroversion influences false memories for positive and negative events is unclear.

The current study was aimed at clarifying the effects of extroversion through the ISENC personality questionnaire on false memories, using an ecological paradigm for emotional events.

Participants were 151 volunteer undergraduate students. Results showed that extroversion predicted reduced false memories for positive events compared to negative ones. No effects of neuroticism and psychoticism were found.

Results are discussed in terms of the stable characteristics of the rememberer that may affect memory distortions.

I encourage you to read this pretty amazing study because it's counterintuitive. We would tend to believe that extroverted people are very self-confident, have very high self-esteem, and therefore would be less amenable to false memories.

But actually, they are more amenable to false memories of negative events.

And second thing, we would expect people with high psychoticism and high neuroticism to be again more prone to generating false memories, and that's not the case at all, which opens a can of worms about the very construct of false memories. We'll talk about it a bit later.

Recently, a book was published, which I recommend that you try to get in the library or online somewhere. It's the best summary of current trauma studies, especially in social contexts. It's called Social Trauma: An interdisciplinary textbook. I think it was published by Springer. And there is a chapter there by one of the editors, Camilia Hancheva. The chapter is Social Trauma Memory Construction. And she says, in the late 19th century and long before the introduction of post-traumatic stress disorder into psychopathology, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Boyer. And she's referring to an article by Royer and Freud, published in 1895. It was cited in latest studies in 2012 by Ren and others.

So Sigmund Freud and Pierre Genet, both in 1919 and 1925. And again, I think she's referring to quotes of Pierre Genet in Van der Kolk's book in 1994.

Anyhow, long before PTSD was introduced into psychology, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Boyer, Pierre Genet have independently suggested the connection between psychological symptoms, trauma, and memory.

When Freud and Royer first stated that hysterics and later extrapolated them to other mental conditions suffer mainly from reminiscences, that was a summary of their clinical observations.

In this chapter in the book, these aphoristic and controversial statements will be taken only as a reminder of the links between human sufferings and memory processes.

The temptingly simple first model of talking cure very soon proved wrong, or at least insufficient in both explanation power and treatment technique.

The presuppose healing is not a simple consequence of remembering the traumatic content. Memory is an active process of construction and reconstruction.

Freud's notion of deferred action is a reminder of the constant possibility for rearranging and revising of memory traces.

Keeping in mind the clinical relevance of the repression mechanism, forgetting and symptom formation in psychotherapy, the increasing number of practitioners, second and increasing number of practitioners, second, Phonogy's claim that therapies focusing on the recovery of memory pursue a false god. That's something Phonogy wrote in 1999. It is more the process of reflection and reintegration of sensory affective and semantic aspects of memories that matters for the overall psychological functioning and well-being.

Psychologists have studied false memories in a variety of settings, including laboratory situations where events were well controlled so we could be sure about the facts of the events that were generated within the laboratory.

And then we sought to ascertain how the events were remembered. Did people remember the events accurately when they didn't, did they lie about it or confabulate about it? Were most memories real or false or fake, true or not?

So we discovered that there are several factors that affect the formation of false memories.

First of all, inaccurate perception. When you perceive things wrongly, visually or via other senses, it affects the formation of memories. It creates a sense of disorientation, dislocation. We try to somehow make up for it by injecting sense, imbuing the chaotic state with structure and order to render it meaningful.

And then there's an issue of inferences. That's a famous study by Rodeger, R-O-E-D-I-G-E-R, Rodeger and others in 1995. Rodeger demonstrated, and these are conclusive studies, he demonstrated that we make certain assumptions.

We bring to the memory formation, we bring to the situation knowledge, rules of conduct, rules of thumb, heuristics, inferential rules that affect how we perceive what's happening to us.

If we are told that certain behavior is abusive, we would tend to consider it abusive. For example, if we think that we are embedded in a highly specific situation, for example, an office environment, a prison, a hospital, we would tend to interpret everything in accordance with the office scheme with the hospital template or with the army template.

We are not tabula rasa, we are not a blank slate. We bring a lot into the table when we form memories.

And when this process is interfered with, when there are external influences, external information, the memory's memory formation is disrupted and then altered, we can definitely create wrong memories.

This was demonstrated by Loftus in 1978, by Schuller in 1990, by Tversky in 2000, decade after decade after decade.

Whenever there's input from the environment, whenever there's feedback from other people, whenever we are told something, whenever we are exposed to specific words or lists of words, our memory changes.

Then there's the issue of similarity.

We tend to judge things and arrange them within memory schemas, within memory boxes or memory containers, according to how similar they are to other things from our past, from past experience. Past experience dictates present experience and how we think about the future.

We are very restricted and constricted in this sense.

We are not totally open to everything that comes, to every experience and every word and every behavior.

No, we judge, we classify, we categorize, and we compare all the time.

Is this like this? Is that like that? Did this thing that just happened to me? Is it the same that happened to me in high school?

Like we draw on the repository of our experiences, our life affects our memory.

There's also misattribution of familiarity. If we had been exposed to something, we would tend to misidentify in the future.

Students were given in a famous experiment by Jacobi and others in 1989, students were given a list of celebrities and within the list there were several names of, several totally invented names of people who did not exist.

And so they read the list. The next day they were asked to identify celebrities from another list and they misidentified some of these non-existent people as celebrities because they had been exposed to their names the day before.

That is the misattribution of familiarity.

There's also false autobiographical memories. I mentioned in the previous lecture the famous experiment by Loftus, the Lost in the Mall experiment in 1995.

Loftus had convinced one quarter of the subjects in her experiments that they had been lost as a child in a mall and that this had been an enormously traumatic experience.

And this, 25 percent of the people who participated recalled this event that had never happened.

They remembered within great colorful detail what had happened that day, how they went with money, how they got lost.

Okay, none of it has happened. None of it had happened.

Porter repeated the experiments with variance and half of his subjects were utterly convinced and vehemently defended, concocted memories of events that had never happened.

Pestek in 1997 convinced people that they had participated in a religious ceremony that they have never been to.

Wade in 2002, in an audacious study, convinced people that they had been on a hot air balloon ride until you're not.

He succeeded to convince people that in their past they rode, they were on a hot air balloon in the air.

And people defended, I mean when they were challenged, when they were told this and this, so you know it's a hoax, you never in your life were on a hot air balloon, they became indignant and enraged.

Of course we were on a hot air balloon, utterly invented events that never happened.

Hyman in 1995, together with, I mean at the same time as Loftus, succeeded to convince people that they had spent time in a hospital when they've never been to a hospital in their lives.

And Pestek in 1997 had a huge success in convincing people that they had received an enema in childhood which they had forgotten, etc etc.

Autobiographical memories are easily implanted, easily falsified. Non-existent memory and non-existent events become memories because people are told that they had happened.

Extensions and variations of all these experiments.

So we're trying all over the world for decades and now we know that an average of one third of experimental subjects become convinced that they had experienced things in childhood that had never really occurred, never really happened.

Even highly traumatic things, even impossible events, experimental researchers have demonstrated that memory cells of mice in the hippocampus can be modified to artificially create false memories.

Now there is of course not everyone is amenable to false memories. There are differences, differences of age, differences of inclinations, differences of personality. There are differences, individual differences in suggestibility.

Children for example and older adults are more suggestible than college students.

When we administered the dissociative experience scale test, BES, it's a major measure of distraction and also a measure of psychotic experiences like hearing voices and so on.

So when we administered this test, college students fared well. All the people didn't.

So the older you get, the more open you are to developing an autobiography that is going to do with reality.

This has never happened to you, living not your own life, living someone else's life.

And I refer to studies by Clancy and others, 2002, Eisen and Allies, 2001, Hyman, 1998, etc.

So suggestibility is a crucial element, predictor. Suggestible people, people who easily hypnotize for example, about five to eight percent of the population, they will tend to develop false memories.

Activation of associated information.

When the trauma trigger or the attempted memory links to many others, it creates kind of a perfect storm, a cytokine storm. The brain's immune system, mental immune system, comes to life.

And then it's easy to incorporate misinformation and to have something called source misattribution.

Source misattribution or misattribution of memory. It's when we misidentify the origin of a memory.

The person who is trying to recall, to remember something, misidentifies the origin of the source.

Misattribution happens when individuals are unable to monitor and control the influence of their attitudes or their judgments during the time of the retrieval.

Misattribution is divided into three components, Cryptomnesia, false memories and source confusion. And it's described amply in Daniel Schachter's magnificent book about memory, Seven Scenes of Memory.

Cryptomnesia is when a forgotten memory returns without being recognized as a forgotten memory.

So you suddenly have a memory, but you don't recognize it as a memory. You think it's something new? It just happened to you. Something original. It's a memory bias where a person falsely recalls generating a thought or an idea or a tune or a name or a joke when actually they were stored in his memory from before.

But the reintroduction to these things, these constructs, is so sudden, so unexpected that it feels new. It feels like it just happened.

It's not deliberate plagiarism. It's experiencing memory as though it were new, as though it were an inspiration, as though it were an innovation.

False memories are a part of something that's called false memory syndrome, which is very controversial. We'll discuss it a bit later.

But generally speaking, people would tend to create false, fake, counterfactual, unreal autobiographical memories also if they have a great creative imagination.

So people who are prone to fantasy, people with creative imagination, these people would tend to generate this kind of unreliable memories and people who dissociate a lot. All these things are conducive to memory formation.

There are people who react very powerfully to peer pressure. They want to please people. They want to be considered socially desirable. They are terrified of being shunned and ostracized and criticized. They're socially anxious or socially shy. They're avoidant or schizoid or whatever. They're narcissists and they're highly dependent on narcissistic supply. So they have to be prosocial. So social desirability is intimately connected to false memory.

Social desirability effects are also connected to social pressure. These kind of people, when they anticipate or experience or believe that there is social pressure to conform, to falsify reality, to tell lies about themselves and confabulate their own past, they would.

You see this a lot in victims, forums of victims online, where a victim joins the forum and then in order to conform to the forum, to the ethos and the spirit and the mores of the forum and especially the leaders of the forum, the victim would exaggerate the abuse, lie about the abuse, invent all kinds of stories just to fit in, to belong.

This is a very powerful motivation and so victim forums are self-feeding frenzy mechanisms. People enter these forums with goodwill, authenticity, honesty. They're innocent of any attempt or intention to exaggerate what had happened to them.

But the forum has his own dynamics, his own social pressure, his own leader stance, his own cult elements and the victim, the newly joined victim, the newbie has to fit in and she fits in by generating false memories which gradually these confabulations become integrated with her identity. Her identity becomes death of a victim, victimhood becomes a defining determinant of who she is, a dimension of her personality.

So she begins to feel that the memories are real. Even if somewhere in the recesses of her mind, she remembers that she had invented them. After one year or two years, they're real. She had appropriated them. She had integrated them. She is emotionally invested, affected in these memories and so she can't let go.

They had become a definitive comfort zone in environment.

Perceived pressure from authority figures, such as the aforementioned forum leaders, may lower individuals criteria for accepting a false event as true.

People suspend their judgment, delete their opinions, conform, label, do not stand out, do not resist or object, do not argue or criticize. Conformities is a huge power in mobs and so these kind of pressures generate false memories.

Within the therapeutic setting, the therapist can easily become a bully. The therapist can broadcast unethically. It's wrong to do that. The therapist can broadcast expectations, prepare and provide suggestions, instruct the patient how to please him. It's a very narcissistic process where the therapist wants the patient to aggrandize himself and to buttress his sense of omniscience and omnipotence, god-like qualities.

So this kind of therapist, he would press the patient and push the patient to confirm instances of abuse that had never happened, to exaggerate her abuse, to color it, to misattribute information to the wrong sources, wrong origins, wrong events and instances and circumstances, to falsify because the patient would try to please the therapist, conform to his views and fulfill his expectations and wishes.

It's a very, very pernicious, dangerous and pathologizing process. We all have pre-existing beliefs about memory. We all self-evaluate our memory abilities.

So when we come to any setting, therapy or not, forums, therapy, whatever, new boyfriend, marriage, a child is born, in all these situations, we tend to trust to some extent or distrust to some extent our capacity to remember, to form memories, to store them properly and then to retrieve them unaltered.

At least many of us believe in this.

Today we know, scientifically, that memories can never be retrieved unaltered. There's no such thing as an unchanged memory. Memories are always reconstructed and when they are reconstructed they change.

We know that.

But the core is there. It is the trust in the core that is crucial.

But trauma undermines this. This trauma generates dissociation, for example, psychotic elements under severe stress and pressure. Anxiety tends to impact and impair reality testing, depression, catastrophizing, which is at the root and foundation of depression.

So all these cognitive deficits, cognitive biases, unhealthy processes, they undermine, they sabotage one's good relationship with one's memory.

And when there's no memory, there's no continuity and no identity. So these people deteriorate very fast into identity diffusion or identity disturbance.

This is where an unscrupulous therapist or narcissistic therapist enters. He provides a substitute identity by telling the patient what to remember.

Her trauma symptoms, which are real because the core memory of the trauma is real, but her trauma symptoms are manicured. They are made up like makeup. They are changed. They are they're manipulated to fit the narrative which had been constructed omnipotently and omnisciently by the therapist, the godlike therapist.

Attachment styles are critical in false memory formation.

And between therapists and patients, there's always a question of attachment via the mechanisms of transference and countertransference. So we'll talk about attachment styles a bit later.

Having said all this, there is no such thing as a false memory trait. In other words, you can't say that some people have a propensity, a trait for generating false memories.

Even those who have highly superior memory, they are susceptible to false memory.

Trauma is the key. People with trauma history or trauma symptoms are vulnerable to memory deficits, including source monitoring failures, misattribution.

Possible associations between attachment styles and reports of forced childhood memories are also of interest. It's a complex.

The child is abused, for example, by a dead parent. This abuse leads to attachment disorders.

To compensate for the abuse, to be able to survive within the abuse, that's trauma betrayal theory, the child confabulates or reframes the abuser as a non abuser. Because he depends on the abuse, child cannot discard the abuser. He must live with the abuser.

So to be egosyntonic, to be in a comfort zone, he reframes the abuser. That's the first act of self betrayal, self gaslighting.

So it starts from there.

The tendency to fantasize, which is prevalent in narcissism, the tendency to lie to yourself, the tendency to confabulate, they all start in childhood.

So attachment is critical. Adult attachment styles have been related to memories of early childhood events. And they suggest that the encoding of memories and the retrieval of these members may activate the attachment system.

So memories and identity go hand in hand with attachment. For example, avoidant adults, they have difficulties to access negative emotional experiences from childhood. Ambivalent adults, they have no problem. They access these negative experiences very easily.

So attachment theory seems to sit well, explain well the propensity, the proclivity to generate false memories.

Because consistent with attachment theory, adults with avoidant attachment styles, like their child counterparts, they may attempt to suppress physiological and emotional reactions to activation of the attachment system. They lie themselves out of any possible relationship.

To avoid within the approach avoidance repetition compulsion to avoid requires to falsify the relationship.

The avoidant adult is loved. He needs to tell himself that he is not loved. And he needs to prove to himself that he is not loved by concocting incidents of abuse by the intimate partner. He says to himself, I'm not really loved. She's abusing me. I'm walking away. I'm avoiding her because she's abusing. Even when the partner is loving and caring and empathic and holding and compassionate, the avoidant adult will falsify the situation by generating false memories of abuse to justify and legitimize his avoidance.

Significant associations between parental attachment and children's suggestibility exist also. We demonstrated it in a few studies.

Such data now suggests that greater attachment avoidance may be associated with a stronger tendency to form false memories of childhood.

It's always the question of presuppositions and the misinformation effect.

A presupposition is an implication through chosen language. The language we choose to describe our experience also goes into the memory. Memory is language.

When you have a memory, you're talking to yourself. It's a cognition.

And of course, all cognitions rely on language.

So presupposition is a choice of language.

If a person is asked, for example, what shade of blue was the wallet? What actually you're asking is the wallet was blue. What shade was it?

There is a hidden statement there, statement of fact, which immediately becomes indisputable.

The question's phrasing provides the respondent with a supposed fact.

And this presupposition creates two effects, true effect and false effect.

In the true effect, the implication is accurate. The wallet was really blue.

And that makes the respondent's recall stronger, more readily available, easier to extrapolate from.

A respondent is more likely to remember a wallet as blue. If the prompt said that it was blue, then if the prompt did not say that it was blue.

But at least the wallet was blue, this correspondence.

The false effect, the implication was actually false. The wallet was not blue, even though the question asked what shade of blue it was.

And this convinces the respondent of the truth of the statement, that the wallet was blue, even when it's not blue.

And this affects their memory. It can also alter the responses to later questions to keep them consistent with the false information.

You see, the choice of a single word, blue, preconditions you to remember the wallet is blue, even when it's not blue.

And then to structure your entire stream of consequent responses and experiences with the wallet to fit into the unspoken or spoken assumption, spoken statement of that, that it was it was blue, even when it's not blue.

A lie structures reality after that. You change your behavior, you change the way you think, you change the way you feel, just to conform to the initial line, not to contradict yourself and to please the interrogator, the therapist, whoever.

Regardless of the effect being true or false, the respondent is attempting to conform to the supplied information because they assume it to be true.

We have this effect in a series of experiments known as word lists experiments.

One can trigger false memories by presenting subjects with a continuous list of words. When subjects were presented with a second version of the list, and they were asked if the words had appeared in the previous list, they found, the experimenters found that the subject did not recognize the list correctly.

When the words on the two lists were semantically related to each other, sleep and bed, cold and water, it was more likely that the subjects did not remember the first list correctly and created false memories.

This is the experiment by Anisfeld in 1963. The experiment was repeated by Kathleen McDermott and Henry Rodeger in 1998.

So if the list has internal connections, the first list, it will be misremembered later when a second list is presented.

Susan Clancy discovered that people claiming to have been victims of alien abductions are more likely to recall semantically related words than control group in such an experiment.

It seems that people who form false memories, they're very much into discovering patterns, discovering connections.

In extreme cases we have pareidolia where we see patterns where there are none, patterns between numbers, patterns in clouds where there are none.

So this tendency to detect for patterns, detect for structure is because there is an obsession with meaning. These are people whose early life was devoid and deprived of meaning and sense. The person who was supposed to love them, hated them, abused them, tortured them, they couldn't make sense of what was happening.

And so they became obsessed with sense, with meaning and structure and order. And whenever they're confronted with anything, they try to imbue it with sense and meaning and order and structure, even when there's with none. And they would lie and they would falsify and they would misperceive and misrecall and misremember just to preserve the initial structure.

There is instaged naturalistic events. It's artificial situations.

So for example, subjects are invited to an office and they were told to wait in the office. After this, they have to recall the inventory of the office they had been to. And subjects recognized objects. They made a list of objects that were in this office that they had had waited in.

But none of these objects was there. These objects were locked in this office, but they fitted into a list of objects which are typically in an office, or what we call an office schema.

So there is an office schema, an office template. And when we go to an office, we expect to find these objects in the office. And when they are not there, we think that we light ourselves, we create a false memory that these objects were in the office when they were not.

I refer you to the study by Brewer and Trenz, T-R-E-Y-E-N-S in 1981. There was another study, subjects were presented with a situation where they witnessed a staged robbery. Half of the subject witnessed the robbery live. The other half watched a video of the robbery as it took place, like live streaming. After the event, they were asked to recall what had happened during the robbery. Shockingly, those who watched the video of the robbery actually remembered more information more accurately than those who were inside the robbery live on the scene.

When we are involved in something, everything kicks in.

Defense mechanisms which falsify reality, emotions, other memories, previous experiences, other people's input, feedback, unexpected data, information, chaos, and you can't remember well what you do instead. You falsify your memories.

And so false memory presented itself in ways such as subjects seeing things that would fit in a crime scene that were not there, or, conversely, not recalling things that did not fit with a crime scene.

And this happened with both parties, displaying the idea of staged naturalistic events that I mentioned before.

There is something called relational processing. Memory, when we retrieve memory, when we retrieve memory, it's somehow connected with the brain's way of processing relationships or relations.

You remember what I said two minutes ago? It's not a false memory. I said that people who create false memories, they are very much into finding patterns, finding structures, finding order.

So relational processing in the brain is intimately connected with memory and more specifically with false memory.

When we associate two events, for example, a testimony with a crime, when we associate two events, there are two types of representations, verbatim, verbatim, and gist. The verbatim representation matches usually to the individual occurrences. I don't know. I don't like dogs because I was bitten by a dog when I was five. The gist representation matches general rules, general inferences, previous knowledge. I don't like dogs because dogs are mean and they bite people. They didn't bite me, but they bite people.

So the verbatim has to do with autobiographical memory.

When we see events that are connected to each other somehow, relate to each other somehow, we bring into the table our personal experience, that's the verbatim representation, and we bring to the table general knowledge, a fund of knowledge, and that's the gist representation.

Verbatim matches individual occurrences and gist matches general inferences.

So there is something called the fuzzy trace theory. It suggests that false memories are stored only as gist representations.

So gist representation, when we retrieve memories, some of them are true, some of them are false, and the false memories would be the outcome of generalized rules about the world, about other people, about what dogs do, generalized rules.

And of course this is confabulation, because what is confabulation? Confabulation is when you don't remember and you try to compensate for the lack of memory by asking yourself, what could have happened? What was reasonable? What would be reasonable? What would be probable? What would be possible to have happened?

Ah, well, if this is the case, it must have happened. So Storbeck and Clore in 2005 wanted to see how mood affects the retrieval of false memories.

And they used a measure of word association tool. It's called the DIS, Reutiger-McDermot paradigm, DRM paradigm. And they manipulated the subject's moods. Moods were oriented towards being more positive, more negative, or attached.

So they manipulated moods. And they discovered that the more negative mood made critical details stored in the form of gist representation, less accessible.

This would imply that false memories are less likely to occur when the subject was in a bad mood.

Now, this leads to mind-numbing thought. Victims of abuse are usually typically in a bad mood. They're depressed, they're dysphoric, they're anxious. This would seem to indicate that they would be less likely to generate false memories. It would seem to indicate that you can trust these victims, actually, when they remember something they hadn't remembered before. It's not false.

There are various hypotheses about why we, in general, generate false memories.

There is the strength hypothesis. It states that in strong situations, situations where one course of action is encouraged, more than any other course of action, there is an objective payoff. People are expected to demonstrate rational behavior, base their behavior on the objective payoff, and choose the course of action that is encouraged.

So a therapist can encourage you when you say the right thing, when you say something that pleases him, he would smile at you. That's a reward. You want this reward. You want to be patted on the back. You want the positive reinforcement.

So you would tend to choose more and more the false memory that pleases the therapist.

And current laws, I mean, most people, no matter how daring, will conform to the law because the objective payoff of conforming to the law is safety and security. And the objective payoff of lying coming up with false memories is the pleasure, encouragement, reinforcement, and support of a very critical figure in your life, your therapist, or peers, or your intimate partner, your abusive intimate partner.

Abusers use this. They try to make you generate false memories about the abuse. You want to please your abuser. You depend on your abuser. You're afraid of your abuser. So you would falsify your memories of the abuse and of the abuser's misconduct.

So as to please the abuser to belong to fit in the objective payoff.

Then there is a construction hypothesis. If a true piece of information being provided can alter a respondent's answer, then a false piece of information can do the same.

Now, it sounds simple, but it's an amazing insight.

Our answer, our responses, our memories are shaped not only by true things, but equally by false things. Memory is malleable.

When you ask a respondent a question that provides a presupposition, the respondent will provide a recall, a memory in accordance with the presupposition.

So you can you can shape people's memories. Not only that, the memory will be detailed and vivid and colorful and connected to other memories. You can literally reach into someone's mind and tell him what to remember just by creating the right circumstances, giving the right incentives and reinforcement, right suggestions and right objective payoff, and making presuppositions in the language you use.

Elizabeth Loftus developed what was later called as a skeleton theory. When a presupposition was one of false information, it could only be explained by the construction hypothesis and not by the strength hypothesis.

The skeleton theory is kind of a procedure. It's how memory is recalled and it's split into two categories, acquisition and retrieval.

The acquisition process has three separate steps.

First, on the original encounter, the observer selects a stimulus to focus on.

You can't focus on everything. A lot is going on around you and you only pick up on a tiny portion, five percent to be accurate.

Ninety-five percent of everything that's happening around you, all the information surrounding you, all the data attacking you, all of it is lost. Ninety-five is actually not lost, but stored in the unconscious where you have no access to it. You are exposed consciously to five percent, so you select the stimulus that you focus on.

Then visual perception must be translated into statements and descriptions using the language. The statements represent a collection of concepts, objects, internal objects, and they have a link between event and recall, what happened and memory.

And third, the perceptions are subject to any external information being provided before or after the interpretation.

The subsequent set of information can reconstruct memory. Every new memory affects previous memories. Every new bit of information changes the entirety of the information sphere.

Everything that happens to you, every person you meet, every place you visit, every music you hear, every tune you hear, every movie you watch reshapes the totality of your memories from the past.

You never experience the same memory twice as you can never step into the same river twice.

The retrieval process also steps.

First, the memory and imagery are regenerated, reassembled, on the fly, from scratch.

And this perception is subject to what was the focus that the observer had selected, along with the information provided before or after the observation.

And then the linking is initiated by a statement response, painting a picture to make sense of what was observed.

And this retrieval process results in either an accurate memory or a false memory.

In the frontiers of psychology, the April 2020 issue was an article, do false memories look real, evidence that people struggle to identify rich false memories of committing crime and other emotional events. It was written by Julia Shaw from the University College of London.

I will quote at length, it's a good article.

Two studies examined whether people could identify rich false memories. Each participant in both studies was presented with two videos, one of a person recalling a true emotional memory, and one of the same person recalling a false memory. These videos were filmed during a study which involved implanting rich false memories.

She's referring to a study by Shaw and Porter in 2015.

The false memories in videos either involved committing a crime, assault or assault with a weapon, or other highly emotional events, animal attack, losing a large sum of money during adolescence.

In study number one, the participants were no better than chance at accurately classifying false memories or false memories of committing crime. In study number two, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions where they only had access to the audio account of the memory with no video, video account but not audio, the full video and audio accounts.

False memories were classified correctly by 32% of the audio only group, 45% of the video only group and 53% of the audio visual group.

This research provides evidence that naive judges are not able to reliably identify false memories of emotional or criminal events or differentiate true for false memories. We are very bad judges of false memories. These findings are likely to be of particular interest to those working in legal and criminal justice settings.

Can people tell whether a particular memory is true or false?

In a review of the literature, researchers have pointed out that there are two ways of looking at this question, focusing on the memories reported or the person reporting the memories, which is how Bernstein and Loftus did it in 2009.

And so we have these two ways.

You look at the memories or you look at the person reporting the memory.

And within this review, it was argued that there were no reliable neurophysiological, technological or psychological ways to discern between true and false memories and that telling the difference between true and false memories is one of the biggest challenges in memory research.

However, this hasn't stopped researchers from continuing to look for differences with limited success.

Some researchers have argued that the phenomenology of false memories is different from true memories, advocating that participants are able to identify their own false memories if they focus on source monitoring decisions where people think they know things fromconfidence ratings and explicit warnings about memory fallibility.

This is an experiment by Anastasi and others in the year 2000.

Others have argued that providing questionnaires that help people systematically examine the characteristics of their memories can slightly improve false memory detection.

Ost and others in 2002.

Proponents of this phenomenological line of work broadly argue that true memories feel richer than false ones. That's Marche and others in 2010.

And that false memories are weaker forms of true memories. Zhou and Floyce, 2013.

However, this seems an incomplete answer to the differences between true and false memories as research also shows that the realism of false memories depends on the method through which they were elicited or generated.

Most studies on false memories involve short timeframes and false memories that are neither very complex nor particularly emotional.

Research has also focused almost entirely on assessment of one's own false memory account rather than assessment of someone else's account.

Research shows that the methodologies that use longer encoding periods, repetition, emotion, and a lot of detail and complexity create false memories that feel and look more real.

Such methodology is typical of studies that try to implant rich false memories of autobiographical events through a method called the familial informant false narrative paradigm.

And that's the classic getting lost in the morning experiment, Loftus and Bikril, 1995.

This technique involves using a combination of trust, misinformation, disinformation exercises, and repetition to convince participants that they had experienced events that had never happened.

By using this technique, individuals have been shown to generate complex false memories of autobiographical events that had never happened.

Skoboria and others in 2017.

An autobiographical false memory is an incorrect recollection of part of an event or an incorrect recollection of an entire event.

The person recalling a false memory believes that they are accessing a real memory. It is not an attempt to lie as Loftus made clear in 2005.

Memories that have been implanted using the familial informant false narrative technique and related techniques, including getting lost in the shopping mall, spilling a punch bowel at a family wedding, or being left in the car as a child, and releasing the parking brake so it rolled into something.

Hyman in 1995.

More serious false memories that have been implanted include being punched or punching someone else, Laney and Takagamji in 2013, or being a victim of animal attack, Porter in 1999.

Additionally, researchers have implanted a number of false memories of committing crime, including false memories of assault, assault with a weapon, and theft, show in Porter 2015.

Rich false memories of highly emotional and criminal events are of particular interest to applied psychologists, legal professionals, and law enforcement as they can have catastrophic consequences. Because they can become distorted or fabricated evidence, such false memories can seriously threaten the integrity of a criminal investigation or a legal case in court, as Loftus demonstrated in 2003.

Research on autobiographical false memories typically involves asking the participants themselves to rate the realism of their own false memories. And participants consistently report that such false memories feel incredibly real.

If autobiographical false memories feel largely the same as real memories, then they may also look like real memories to other people.

In perhaps the only study to directly examine this, participants were asked to watch videos of complex emotional true and false memories being recalled, so to see if they could tell the difference.

Campbell and Porter in 2002. Observers correctly identified 60% of false memories and 53% of true memories, with 50% being chance. So there were a lot better than chance.

This study was the inspiration for the present research.

While there has been evidence to show that false memories of important emotional and criminal events can be created, there has been little research investigating the ability of observers to distinguish between true and false memories, and no evidence to show that false memories are evidence on false memories of crime.

So this all leads to what is known as the false memory syndrome.

The false memory syndrome is allegedly a condition in which a person's identity and interpersonal relationships, identity and interpersonal relationships, center on a memory of a traumatic experience that is objectively false, but that the person strongly believes had occurred in Israel.

So if you convince yourself that you had been the victim of abuse and it never happened, you're going to structure your interpersonal relationships now and in the future. Your very identity is a victim around this false memory.

Again, I want to make clear, most memories of trauma and abuse are absolutely real and true. These are the core memories, but there are cases of false memories of abuse and trauma and autobiographical memories, even the most extreme autobiographical memories, riding a hot air balloon, committing a crime, are easy to implant anywhere between one quarter and one half of people. It's terrifying what people think they remember about themselves. Maybe half false, half fake never happened.

False memory is an important part of psychological research because it is tied to PTSD and other mental health issues.

Peter Freid originated the term and established the false memory syndrome foundation and he popularized the principle that individuals can hold false memories and the role that outside influence can play in their formation should be widely accepted.

So Peter Freid was the father of this.

False memory syndrome may be the result of recovered memory therapy. It's a range of therapy methods that are prone to creating confabulations.

And some of the influential figures in the genesis of false memory syndrome theory, they are the forensic psychologists, under wager, psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, which is the mother of memory studies, and sociologist Richard O'Connor.

Therapists who subscribe to recovered memory theory, they say that recovered memory is very important. They say when the memory is not recovered, the energy of the memory, they follow for it. The energy of the memory creates disruptions and disorders, eating disorders, sleeplessness, depression and so on.

So they think if you release the memory, if you unleash the memory to provide access to the memory that is repressed, then healing will ensue. And these repressed memories usually have to do with abuse, especially sexual abuse.

Psychotherapists try to reveal repressed memories in mental therapy patients through hypnosis, guided imagery, dream interpretation, narcoanalysis. And this therapy created a lot of false memories and also other psychological disorders in the patients.

They use strategies like hypnotherapy, repeated interrogation, essentially, you know, forensic technique and bibliotherapy.

According to Loftus, there are different possibilities to create false therapy- induced memories in unintentional suggestions by therapies.

We mentioned the lost in the mold technique. It's a recovery strategy. It's repeated suggestion pattern.

This did happen to you, this did happen to you, this did happen to you until a patient says, you know what, you're right, this did happen to me. And I remember every detail, even when it didn't happen.

Lawrence and Perry conducted a study testing the ability to induce memory recall through hypnosis. Subjects were put into hypnotic state and woken up. And observers suggested that the subjects were woken up by a loud noise, which they were not. Nearly half of the subjects being tested reported that this was true. There was a loud noise in the walk-up, but there was no loud noise.

The hypnotherapy therapeutically altered the subject state. They were led to believe that what they were being told was true.

And so the respondents had false recall.

A 1989 study focusing on hypnopisability, suggestibility, false memory, separated, made various distinctions.

So, accurate and inaccurate memories recalled in open-ended question formation, 11.5% of subjects recalled the false event suggested by observers in a multiple choice format. No participants claimed the false event had happened.

This result leads to the conclusion that hypnotic suggestions produce shifts in focus, changed awareness, and take away attention like magic's sleight of hand.

Despite this, subjects don't mix fantasy with reality. When they have the choice, in a multiple choice situation, they make no mistakes. Only when they don't have the choice, where when they're under the control, the influence, the suggestion, and the authority of a hypnotist, therapist, an intimate, abusive partner, peers, friends, family, only then they tend to generate false memories, to conform probably.

So recovered memory therapy is the therapeutic process and method that's believed to create false memories and false memory syndrome.

And as I said, they include hypnosis, sedatives, etc.

The process of memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is when counterfactual wrong information coalesces, becomes unitary, and that leads to the recovered memory.

Obsession to a particular false memory, planted memory, recovered memory, indoctrinated memory, it can shape a person's actions. It can result even in delusional disorder, which several of the patients have developed.

Mainstream psychiatric and psychological professional associations, they are strongly skeptical towards the notion of recovered memories and trauma.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association, they condemn recovered memory therapy.

In 1998, the Royal College of Psychiatry's working group, on reported recovered memories of sexual abuse, wrote the following, No evidence exists for the repression and recovery of verified, severely traumatic events, and their role in symptom formation has yet to be proven.

There is also striking absence in the literature of well-corroborated cases of such repressed memories recovered through psychotherapy.

Given the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse, even if only a small proportion are repressed, and only some of them are subsequently recovered, there should be a significant number of corroborated cases. In fact, there are none.

And so, these techniques have been used in the past, especially the 80s and the 90s. Their continued use is a problem. In many countries, it's cause for malpractice litigation.

And there was even an Australian psychologist who lost his license, it was deregistered, debarred, when he engaged in recovered memory practice.

Now, many of the victims of narcissistic abuse, domestic abuse, interpersonal abuse in relationships, intimate relationships, intimate partner abuse, spousal abuse, familial abuse, many of these victims, they go online and they find online people who actively push them to generate false memories, actively push them to conform, to fulfill expectations.

This is a pernicious phenomenon that should be utterly criminalized.

And these coaches, so-called self-styled experts, they should be thrown in prison.

Exactly as some psychologists have been, they should definitely lose their access to the public.

These criminals and court artists perpetuate the state of victimhood, exacerbate, via false memories by inducing, by providing incentives and reinforcements and objective payoffs to encourage victims of abuse, to invent stories, exaggerate them, dwell on them, ruminate and enhance them by re-recalling. They re-traumatize these victims in effect, time and again, in order to create a constituency whose money they can take repeatedly.

This is unconscionable, if not criminal.

And I'm warning you, as students of a profession who aspire to become therapists, don't fall into this trap.

You're not God, you're not omniscient, you're not omnipotent. Don't substitute your assumptions, your opinions, your judgment, your knowledge for the clients.

The client is in the driver's seat. Don't tell him where to go. Don't tell her where to go. You are there to assist when needed, to provide context. You're not there to remember instead of the client. You're not there, definitely, to tell the client what to remember. You're not there to create the trauma or to recreate the trauma. And you're not there to encourage and reinforce behaviors of the client, which keep her in a state of victimhood by exaggerating what had happened to her, demonizing her abuser, and casting the whole situation as hopeless.

This is likely, as had been demonstrated in studies, to create in the victim other mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and delusional disorders. It's good for business, I know, but it is the closest to murder that we have in psychotherapy.

So stay away from these practices.

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