Define False-memory

False memory

A false memory is a fabricated or distorted recollection of an event. People often think of memory as something like a video recorder, accurately documenting and storing everything that happens with perfect accuracy and clarity. In reality, memory is very prone to fallacy. People can feel completely confident that their memory is accurate, but this confidence is no guarantee that a particular memory is correct.

Definitions of False Memory

How do psychologists define false memory? How do they distinguish it from other forms of memory fallibility?

"A false memory is a mental experience that is mistakenly taken to be a veridical representation of an event from one's personal past. Memories can be false in relatively minor ways (e.g., believing one last saw the keys in the kitchen when they were in the living room) and in major ways that have profound implications for oneself and others (e.g., mistakenly believing one is the originator of an idea or that one was sexually abused as a child)."
(Johnson, M. K., 2001)

"It is essential, at this early stage, to distinguish false memory from the more familiar idea of memory fallibility. Memory, as everyone knows, is an imperfect archive of our experience... In its most general sense, false memory refers to circumstances in which we are possessed of positive, definite memories of events - although the degree of definiteness might vary - that did not actually happen to us."
(Brainerd & Reyna, 2005)

What Causes False Memory?


Brainerd, C. J., & Reyna, V. F. (2005). The Science of False Memory. New York: Oxford University Press.

Johnson, M.K. (2001). False memories, psychology of. In J.D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Elsevier.

Loftus, E. F., Miller, D. G., & Burns, H. J. (1978). Semantic integration of verbal information into a visual memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, 4, 19-31.

Loftus, E. F. (1997). Creating false memories. Scientific American, 277, 70-75.

Loftus, E. F. & Pickrell, J. E. (1995). The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720-725.

Loftus, Elizabeth F. Memory: Surprising New Insights Into How We Remember and Why We Forget Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1980.

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