Memory Malleability: Falsifying True Memories

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychological Science

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brian W. Stone


Decades of research have documented that inaccurate information may lead to false memories that are believed and experienced with clarity. We use a variation on the familial informant false narrative procedure to test whether true memories are similarly susceptible to alteration. If participants are informed a trusted individual, such as a family member, believes an event (for which the participant has a memory) did not happen, then (1) will the participant also believe the event did not occur, and (2) will the participant’s conscious recollection of the event become less clear? Participants first rate their belief and clarity of three childhood memories, all of which are validated by an older informant. Then, during an interview participant are deceptively told their informant denied the occurrence of one of the listed childhood memories and because of this the researcher suspects it to be a false memory. Participants are encouraged to guess which memory is the “false memory.” A post-interview questionnaire was given to again rate the belief and clarity of the three childhood memories. Pre and post belief and clarity ratings will be compared to determine if inaccurate information can lead to disbelieving true memories and experiencing them with less clarity.

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