False memory amounts to fabricated or distorted recollection of events that never happened in the first place. It is believed that memory is a recollection of things that happened in the past, accurately documenting them, storing them and making them available for remembering any time. A twist is brought in when false memory is put into perspective. This then makes memory get prone to fallacies (Frankel 1993). False memory is common among very many people and can range from mere curiosity to just developing thoughts about something that never happened but one which a person becomes certain it happened. One wonders how this happens when the memory is supposed to keep things that happened and not those that did not. The memory can, therefore, not be as accurate as many believe it to be. In this regard, people can have memories of events that never took place in the first place.
There are several factors that can influence false memory. One of them is misinformation or misrepresentation of realities. When reality is distorted, the brain will register the distortion as the reality (Hayman & Billings 1996). This distortion is what will go into long term memory. There are very high chances that when this information is misrepresented, it is what a person will live knowing that is the truth. When this happens, it depicts the memory as vulnerable and anything fed to it will remain in as much as it may not be true. When such happens, the people involved will register memories for nonexistent happenings which amount to false memory. Such are the memories that people will have stored in their minds and even when faced by the reality, they will perceive it as lies. It happens all the time, and that is when some call for proving just to be sure about the difference between the two.
There are people who have a tendency of makeup stories. There are times when such people are made to retell such stories again so much so that they develop a story that is non- existent but one which is in their minds. Such people retell these stories for a very long time, and many people believe in them unless they are told that they are lies because of the mastery of the stories that the person telling them achieves over time. In such cases, the stories and the memories gotten from the experience can be termed as false memories because the experiences and thoughts are nonexistent in the first place (Fredrickson 1992). When a person makes up stories like that, in their minds, these stories remain in as much as they are crafted and manipulated. These persons are themselves manipulated into believing in things that did not happen in the first place.
Many are the times when people think that they have complete control of their thoughts (Rhoades 1995). One thing they forget is the fact that these memories or thoughts can be altered or be manipulated to fit the expectations of the people involved. At times, people have existing thoughts that will stand in the way into registering the truth. They will still hold onto these memories, and this may cause the recollection of the event to be mistaken or be thought to be false. In the event that existing knowledge stands in the way, no matter how true or false it is can always lead a person to have a collection of false memories, and this happens most of the time. False memories are thought to become stronger and clearer as time goes by and as a person identifies with them. The more they are professed they more they linger on and they eventually become more or less the truth which they are not.
It is indeed true to say that people have memories for things that never happened. It has been established that to a huge extent, false memories are equal to real memories. There are situations where people cannot tell whether the memory they have is true or not. The imagination is credited to creating these memories, and it is believed that even dreams contribute to the formation of false memories. Experts say that it gets tricky when one cannot differentiate between false memories and real ones because of the situations and experiences they go through in life (Loftus & Ketcham 1994). False memories and real memories can get mixed up somewhere and cannot be separated. The human brain has the capacity to imagine and when people personalize their imaginations and make them look real. This is exactly what happens with false memories. The brain makes the false memory look so real such that a person will not see these imaginations as lies or anything short of reality. Even dreams contribute to the formation of false memories. Many are the times when people recognized their dreams and thought that they were real. When this is the case, these dreams are thought to form part of the false memory because whatever exists in dreams can never be real.
Frankel, F. H (1993). Adult Reconstruction of Childhood Events in The Multiple Personality Literature. American Journal of Psychiatry, l50, 954-958;
Frederickson, R. (1992). Repressed Memories. NY: Simon & Schuster.
Hyman, I. E. & Billings, F. J. (1996). Individual Differences and the Creation of FalseChildhood Memories. Washington: Western Washington University.
Loftus, E.F. & Ketcham, K. (1994). The Myth of Repressed Memory. New York: St. Martin's Press.
Rhoades, G. F. (1995). Therapeutic Precautions to Help Prevent False Memory Allegations. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the International Society for the study of Dissociation, Lake Buena Vista, Fl.