Tag Archives: false memories

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.

 

References

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