Wednesday, September 22, 2010

False Memories of Self-Performance Result from Watching Others' Actions

ScienceDaily (Sep. 14, 2010) — Did I turn off the stove, or did I just imagine it? Memory isn't always reliable. Psychological scientists have discovered all sorts of ways that false memories get created, and now there's another one for the list: watching someone else do an action can make you think you did it yourself.

The team of psychological scientists who found the new way to create false memories weren't setting out to make a big discovery. They were trying to learn more about imagination, another way that false memories get created. But then in an experiment, they found that people who had watched a video of someone else doing a simple action -- shaking a bottle or shuffling a deck of cards, for example -- often remembered doing the action themselves two weeks later.

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Echterhoff says you shouldn't worry that this happens all the time -- but it's worth remembering that your memory isn't always reliable. "It's good to have an informed doubt or informed skepticism about your memory performance, so you don't just easily trust whatever comes to your mind as true and for granted."

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