False Flippin’ Memories

For this post, I will be looking back to lesson nine of the course to write about the misinformation effect. A couple of months ago, I was in a vehicle crash after swerving to keep from hitting a dog. Immediately after the crash, I thought that I could vividly recall exactly what took place during the crash. I could even recall the sensations of falling and of being upside-down while my vehicle was flipping, which I found strange since most people claim to remember very little about accidents or traumatic events after they occur. Despite my vivid memories of the crash, my memory of events immediately following the crash have become quite distorted. The accounts of the first responders and others who arrived at the scene eventually led to misinformation and false memories.

Soon after my crash, I was sitting on a front porch belonging to the family whose yard I had flipped into. While somewhat disoriented and bleeding from my head, I gave my account of the crash as well as I could to the first police officer on the scene. After telling the officer that I had to crawl out of the front windshield due to my truck lying on its side, he told me that I was remembering wrong and that my truck had landed on all four tires after flipping. This came as a shock because I was sure that I remembered crawling out of the windshield and standing up to see my truck lying on its side. I was initially convinced that the officer was incorrect, but my brother soon confirmed his story. By brother was one of the first people on the scene and told me that my truck was upright when he arrived and that the tow truck had not yet approached my truck. After hearing the accounts of the others involved, my memory of events after the crash began to change. I could no longer picture myself crawling out of the windshield and began to form a memory of exiting through the door.

According to an article written on the misinformation effect, discussing an event with other witnesses can conflict with what actually happened. Listening to the different accounts of the event can distort memories, and repeated exposure to conflicting or inaccurate events can even cause one to reshape his or her own memories (Cherry, 2015). This was proven in my case. The more and more I heard of what everyone else had concluded about the way I exited my vehicle, the more vividly I could recall their accounts, and I could no longer remember crawling out of the windshield despite how vivid the original memory had been. I even formed a visual memory of opening the door of my truck and stepping out onto the ground.

A few weeks ago, my mother ran into one of the firemen who had been among the first responders, and she asked him about my crash. He recalled that when he arrived, my truck was lying on its side and the tow truck was lifting it back to its upright position. This took place before my brother or the police officer had arrived. After spending so much time remembering an inaccurate account due to misinformation, my memory of what happened is still false, despite learning the truth. This case displays the power that misinformation has on our memories, and it proves that enough exposure to false accounts can even lead to forming vivid memories of things that never actually took place.



Cherry, K. (2015). What is the misinformation effect? Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/memory/fl/What-Is-the-Misinformation-Effect.htm

2 thoughts on “False Flippin’ Memories

  1. Heather M Adams

    This is a very interesting blog, I find the discussion on false memories both intriguing and scary at the same time. I don’t like that our memories can be changed and be incorrect, this can have real consequences in life. Perhaps the most consequential would be in regards to criminal acts, accusing someone of something that didn’t happen even though you firmly believe it did, or accusing the wrong person. It has also been shown that false memories can affect your behavior. In a journal article written for the Association of Psychological Science, an experiment showed that telling participants that they got sick from an a egg salad sandwich as a child, made them show a distinct change in attitude and behavior toward the food, that did not exist before being told that. This allowed the researchers to determine that false suggestions about childhood events can change the attitude and behavior of the now adult. That can be somewhat terrifying, not being in control of your own memories is scary. Imagine being told something you enjoyed as a kid you actually didn’t, and the effect it would have on you in present day. It makes me feel a sense of lack of control, and I don’t like that feeling.

    Association for Psychological Science. (2008, August 20). False Memories Affect Behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080819160245.htm

  2. Taelor Poletti-rokosz

    False memories are a very interesting topic. The brain actually recognizes the memories to be true, but recognizes the level of truthfulness as being less than non-false memories. It is interesting that you were able to correctly remember the aftermath of the accident and was still able to recognize your memories as slowly changing based on false witness testimony, and finally accepting the false memory as being true. The strength of your false memory is incredible since you still recognized the false memory as being true after you were told that your original memory was in fact true. You did a wonderful job drawing a connection between false memories and you experiences.

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