According to APA Dictionary of Psychology, false memory is a distorted recollection of an event that never actually occurred. False memories are constructed by combining actual memories with the content of suggestions received from others. During the process, individuals may forget the source of the information (Dictionary). Retroactive interference occurs when new information presented interferes with your ability to retain previously encoded information. Essentially, the new information that a person receives works backward in time to distort memory of the original event (“How…”).
At a 2016 Trump Rally, The Daily Show’s segment “Fingers the Pulse”, correspondent Jordan Klepper, interviewed several supporters of the now current president about their views. So let me put this into context for you…
Interviewee: Barack Obama had big part of 9/11.
Interviewer: Which part?
Interviewee: Not being around, always on vacation and never in the office.
Interviewer: Why do you think Barack Obama wasn’t in the oval office on 9/11?
Interviewee: That I don’t know. Would like to get to the bottom of that.
So can a false memory form because of retroactive interference? A recent study on this idea focuses on the idea that,“The argument advanced in this article is that false memories can arise because of…namely, the decline of distinctiveness and the rise of retroactive interference.” (Howe). In this particular situation, the interviewee’s recall of 9/11 may have been skewed because of information encoded during former President Obama’s actual presidency in 2009-2017. Because of retroactive interference-the information taken from Obama’s presidency-a false memory of the situation was formed. The interviewee may have felt as though during Obama’s presidency, he was not doing a good job, always on vacation, and never in the office to do his job. Though, when that information was encoded, it may have distorted his recollection of memory of our president during 9/11, former President George W. Bush.
Though this show may be staged, this interviewee showed his confidence by stating that he felt as though Barack Obama was our president during the September 11 Attacks, which occurred in 2001. Similarly, false memories can be formed because, “finally, individuals can be encouraged not to think about whether their constructions are real or not.” (“How…”). With this in mind, no one in his life up until that point has informed him that his construction of that memory was incorrect. The strength in his false memory of Obama not doing his job during 9/11, was increased due to people not informing him that Obama was not the president until after 9/11. Agreement of an event by people is a very powerful technique for maintaining as well as instilling false memories.
This was just a quirky and fun example of false memory! But in all maybe we should cut this guy some slack, I mean, for all we know it could have been staged!
Dictionary. “APA Dictionary of Psychology.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 2020, dictionary.apa.org/false-memory.
“How False Memories Form.” How False Memories Form, www.uky.edu/~bdabra2/HowFalseMemoriesFormLoftus.htm.
Howe, Mark L. “Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology | ScienceDirect.com, 1998, www.sciencedirect.com/journal/journal-of-experimental-child-psychology.