Friday, July 22, 2011

Social pressures and false memories and Mormon miracles

From the lovely world of r/cogsci comes a link to ScienceDaily titled How Social Pressure Can Affect What We Remember: Scientists Track Brain Activity as False Memories Are Formed.

Turns out, social pressures can affect what we remember--to the point where a false memory becomes King.

The study went something like this:
1) volunteers watch a documentary
2) they return 3 days later to fill out a memory test and were told to rate their confidence in their memories
3) later, they were taken back to the lab to fill out the test while being scanned by an fMRI machine
3.1) While taking the test, they were given a "lifeline" in which they were given the supposed answers of their fellow viewers, alongside social-media-esque pics
3.2) the participants ended up answering incorrectly 70% of the time, even though they had previously answered correctly and with high confidence
4) to test whether this was due to social demands or no, they took the participants back to the lab
4.1) they were told to take the memory test yet again
4.2) they were also told that the answers they'd received from the "lifeline" were randomly generated by a computer

The grand finale: nearly half of the participants retained their false beliefs.

But just look at the fMRI results, summarized by the researchers:
An analysis of the fMRI data showed differences in brain activity between the persistent false memories and the temporary errors of social compliance. The most outstanding feature of the false memories was a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is known to play a role in long-term memory formation, while the amygdala, sometimes known as the emotion center of the brain, plays a role in social interaction. The scientists think that the amygdala may act as a gateway connecting the social and memory processing parts of our brain; its "stamp" may be needed for some types of memories, giving them approval to be uploaded to the memory banks. Thus social reinforcement could act on the amygdala to persuade our brains to replace a strong memory with a false one.

Does anyone else see the implications?

Want to revisit the evolution of a Mormon miracle?

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