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    True Photographs and False Memories

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    Some memory trauma psychology therapists counsel their patients to view former family photo albums to hint memories of infancy sexual abuse. Old photographs may give hints to long forgotten memories. However, when they are joined with other expressive influences they may lead to false memories.45 undergraduate students were tasked to remember three childhood school-related events. Two of these events were true while one was a pseudo-event. Randomly, 23 individuals were given group photographs of their former school life to recall some events. As hypothesized, the report indicated that false memory rate is intensely greater in the photo state than in the no-photo situation.

    The main study question in this research was to find out if reviewing old family photographs can be helpful in providing hints to infancy events. This question first elicited debate among psychologists in the early 1990s causing experiments to be conducted (Lindsay et al. 2004). It is an interesting question because it helps to understand the cognitive psychology of a person in regard to remembering childhood events. Also, it is fascinating to note that when old family photos are supplemented by other allusive influences, the memory may be led to remember false events.

    The purpose of the experiment was to find out if seeing old photos could lead one to remember past sexual assaults. Also, the research was intended to show that other suggestive influences can mislead the memory creating an illusion of an event that was not experienced. To study these purposes, the study conducted a research that involved 45 psychology students. 9 were men while 36 were women. Each student’s parent provided a brief narration relating two distinctive school-associated events experienced by their children (Lindsay et al. 2004). Parents related their children’s experiences in 5th or 6th grade and 3rd or 4th .In addition; parents provided class photographs for each of their children. In a prior live interview, the pseudoscientist delivered each story loudly and asked the students to remember it, beginning with grade 5 or 6 and proceeding to the pseudo-event of grade 1or 2.Through unsystematic assignment, 23 of the students were given a copy of their school’s group photo for the respective year before the narration was made .

    In the research, the student’s ability to remember a pseudo-event is compared against the presence of a suggestive influence. The presence of a suggestive influence such a manipulated photo stimulated students to remember an event that did not occur during their childhood. This proved the study question that elements with suggestive influence can enhance the memory of an event but, on the other hand, it can arouse a false memory.

    The study found out that suggestive influence can enhance the ability of a memory to remember childhood events. In the first session, about 13.6 percent of individuals in the no-photo state were found to contain pseudo-event memories. Additionally, 31.8 percent of subjects were categorized as having images without memories. In the second session, 22.7 percent of individuals in the no-photo state were found to have pseudo-event memories. On average, about 45.5 percent of individuals in the no-photo situation were found to develop false memories by the end of the second session (Lindsay et al. 2004). However, it was realized that suggestive influences caused a false memory. When the narratives of pseudo-events were presented to the students about past experiences most of them did not agree with the narratives. However, when the narratives were made with the accompaniment of the photographs most of the students agreed that they actually experienced the event. In essence, the presence of photos presented a false memory of the events. This showed that the narratives enhanced the remembrance of past events but the photographs went overboard to reinforce a false memory of the event. The findings responded the question raised by the study that old family photographs can enable a person to remember past childhood events.

    Results from the no-photo condition concur with previous proof that merging a credible narrative credited to a household member with societal pressure, demand features, and constant memory retrieval methods can lead a significant number of undergraduate students to recall memories of infantile pseudo-event. The major finding is that supplementing a photo with a narrative of an event yields high incorrect memory rates (Lindsay et al. 2004). It was found out that when a strict criteria was employed to determine whether students experienced memories of the proposed event, still two third of individuals in the photo state were reported to have formed a deceiving memory. These outcomes are predominantly intense, in that students judged as having false memory gave high marks to the level that they felt that they were recalling the actual event. However, these results do not imply that the students’ false memory was in all ways vague from correct factual memories, but it does propose that pseudo memories were frequently found as quite persuasive.

    This research was a good experiment to show that an individual’s level of remembrance can be improved by viewing past photographs. It was found out that those students that viewed photos together with the narrations were at a better position to recall childhood events (Lindsay et al. 2004). The presence of pseudo-events, however, led some students to give a false account of an event. This research proved the hypothesis that memory state is greater in the snapshot condition than when there is no photo. Despite the great insights highlighted in the research, it cannot be used to establish that observing old family photos can aid a person to remember juvenile sexual assaults. This is because there are other factors that can bar a person from remembering such an event. Therefore, there is need to carry out other studies to address the question about factors that can help a person to remember childhood sexual harassment events.

    Different experiments have been conducted recently that address a similar psychology question. An experiment to find out if photographs can cause false news memories was conducted .In this experiment people were asked to take a question from a major world event. News captions appeared momentarily on a screen. The headlines gave a description of a major recent international event (Strange et al.2011).On half of the test; the headings appeared with photographs that did not represent the event defined. In its place, the photo was divergent such as the one showing Osama Bin Laden being shot. On the other test, the headline was without photo. People were requested to read every headline and then report if they recalled a particular instance that they knew about the event as their first time, purely informed of the event, or knew nothing about it. The trick was that two of the captions were entirely false.

    The study was intended to answer the question of the impact viewing a wrong photo accompanied with a true heading. While half of the photographs emerged with imaginative photos linked to the occurrence, others were displayed with no photos. The photograph was displayed to people once and asked if they recollected the event, informed about it, or none of the responses (Strange et al.2011). Photographs made people to instantly and assuredly give false account of the news .Based on the source monitoring structure, it can be deduced that individuals often rely on prior knowledge and other empirical practices when constructing their judgments and, therefore, experienced the effects of the photographs as memory proof for the news headings. This experiment relates to the first article in the sense that viewing a photograph can lead to creation of a false memory of an event. The two articles essentially show human beings employ heuristic processes when making judgments in the mind.


    • Lindsay, D. S., Hagen, L., Read, J. D., Wade, K. A., & Garry, M. (2004). True photographs and false memories. Psychological Science, 15(3), 149-154.
    • Strange, D., Garry, M., Bernstein, D. M., & Lindsay, D. S. (2011). Photographs cause false memories for the news. Acta Psychologica, 136(1), 90-94.

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