Planting False Memories

Posted on 15th March 2015 | Category: CBT, News

How easy is it for false memories to be planted in an individual? According to this article in the popular press a new study has shown the frightening regularity with which we can create memories that are not consistent with the actual version of events. The article goes on to explore how pressure situations, such as the intervention of the authorities can play an important part in the creation of such situations.

Suggestion is a particularly powerful psychological commodity. When we have certain perspectives drawn out to us by those we regard as authority figures this can have an extra weight as we have often been taught that these people would not deceive us and always have our best interests at heart.

When a patient enters into a regressive state they are highly emotional and as a result, also highly vulnerable. There should be therapeutic safeguards employed in such a situation as all too often there can be a projection of the therapist’s diagnosis onto the patient rather than an unlocking of hidden personal secrets. This can be true especially of sexual dynamics – if the therapist believes hidden abuse plays a role within the psychological make-up of a subject, then this can create a phantom memory.

A police interrogation can often create similar dynamics to the ones you might find in a therapy room. A witness or suspect can often be highly emotional and even suffering from traumatic stress, so when a police figure changes the nature of their experience or attempts to undermine their credibility this can sometimes create a false memory to suit the purpose of the investigator. This is where the authorities are stuck on the beliefs of their version of events and are then projecting them on the subject.

Therefore, as the article states it is important for the police, or any authority organisation for that matter to set up an interview environment where subjects feel as little pressure as possible. Old school techniques such as intimidation and the so called good cop, bad cop dynamic can actually damage a case by promoting a version of events that is not congruent with the true facts of a case.

It is also not uncommon for people to re-write events in their own life story to suit their purpose. At first this a lie, but then over time the person comes to believe their own version of events to the point where they actually forget that the true version of events, which fades into the background and is replaced by the false memory. It is very easy to practice this kind of self-deception, which usually comes from a need to portray oneself in a certain way to a social group.

Rather than looking for false memories and delving into yourself to seek out the root causes of your anxieties and problematic behaviours, a better practical situation is trying to alter your behaviour in the present moment. Mindfulness meditations when combined with CBT and hypnotherapy can give you real world techniques that allow you to consider your actions and look at your motivations to create new opportunities for action.

If you would like to find out how these therapies can help you then why not book a free consultation session where we can look through the options available to you? This will give you the chance to discuss your current situation in a relaxed and professional environment.