In the largest false memory study to date, 5,269 participants were asked about their memories for three true and one of five fabricated political events. Each fabricated event was accompanied by a photographic image purportedly depicting that event. Approximately half the participants falsely remembered that the false event happened, with 27% remembering that they saw the events happen on the news. Political orientation appeared to influence the formation of false memories, with conservatives more likely to falsely remember seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, and liberals more likely to remember George W. Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. A follow-up study supported the explanation that events are more easily implanted in memory when they are congruent with a person’s preexisting attitudes and evaluations, in part because attitude-congruent false events promote feelings of recognition and familiarity, which in turn interfere with source attributions.
One of the more common reasons I’ve been given to abandon my religion of atheism and embrace the Christian God has always been the argument that the people of the time witnessed miracles first hand. Jesus divided the loaves and fishes. He healed the sick and made the blind see. He rose from the dead and there were angels at the tomb.
All written down 50-90 years after the fact.
Then I see papers like this one and see how we can’t even get our facts straight for events that didn’t happen within the last year, and wonder, as I’ve done many times before, why we’re supposed to find the “eyewitness accounts” so compelling.