False Memories Easy to Make

It's not hard to get people to believe they've seen something they haven't, study says


FRIDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDayNews) -- Your mind's eye could be more powerful than your real eyes.

An Ohio State University study says people can easily be persuaded that they've seen something they never actually witnessed.

The study included 23 young adults with no history of mental impairment. They were first shown a series of slides with geometric shapes. They were then shown a second set of slides. This set included two of the slides in the original set, two slides of images that weren't included in the first set, and one slide with a lure image.

This lure image was a shape very similar to all those in the original slide set, but wasn't actually included in the original slide set.

The study participants were 80 percent successful in identifying shapes they had seen in the original slide set. But nearly 60 percent of the time they incorrectly identified the lure image as one they had seen in the original slide set.

"This suggests that visual false memories can be induced pretty easily," lead author David Beversdorf, an assistant professor of neurology, says in a prepared statement.

"People are susceptible to verbal false memories, whether it's something that was actually said or an object they have a mental description of. We wanted to know if the ability to induce false memories extends beyond the language system -- if it also affects the visual system, even when the images aren't easily verbalized. It appears the ability to create false memories does extend beyond language," Beversdorf says.

The study was presented this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.