False Memories

We do not necessarily remember our experiences the way they really happened—and what is more, remembering an experience does not necessarily mean it actually happened at all. In little more than a decade, scientists have discovered that people can have detailed, emotion-filled, and utterly false memories.

False memories are memories that are partly or wholly inaccurate. They are the product of second-hand information rather than genuine experience. Although the term false memory can be used to describe a wide range of memory phenomena, in this entry it is used to describe full-blown distortions of our own biographies: wholly false memories of unreal experiences. However, readers should be aware that two large and parallel scientific literatures show that people can misremember aspects of witnessed events, misidentify perpetrators, ...

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