In the last few years, substantial gains have been made in our understanding of human memory errors and the phenomenon of false memory. Studies conducted in laboratories around the world have demonstrated that human memory is susceptible to errors as a result of exposure to post-event information such as leading questions and reports of others, contact with other people expectations of the self or others intentional suggestions and even tiny differences in language.
This article reviews the foundational false memory research but then focuses on the recent advances in this area, including new hypotheses, new methodologies and new study populations. Some of this research addresses the behavioral ramifications of developing false memories. Although many factors have been tested in attempts to differentiate between true and false memories, no firm distinguishing characteristic has yet been established. Although human memory errors have been a ripe area for research for decades, and demonstrations of false memories for entire autobiographical events have been available in the literature for almost 20 years, this is still a ripe area for research.
In the last few years, substantial gains have been made in our understanding of human memory errors and the phenomenon of false memory, wherein individuals remember entire events that did not happen at all. Research had established that false memories can be consequential and emotional, that they can last for long periods of time, and that they are not merely the product of demand characteristics or the recovery of extant but hidden memories. These recent advances are discussed as extensions of earlier foundational research.
State of the Science Editorials:
Cara Laney and Elizabeth F Loftus
Recent advances in false memory research
South African Journal of Psychology June 2013 43: 137-146, doi:10.1177/0081246313484236