Brief Reports

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 597-603

First online:

A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories

  • Kimberley A. WadeAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington
  • , Maryanne GarryAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Victoria University of Wellington Email author 
  • , J. Don ReadAffiliated withUniversity of Victoria
  • , D. Stephen LindsayAffiliated withUniversity of Victoria


Because image-enhancing technology is readily available, people are frequently exposed to doctored images. However, in prior research on how adults can be led to report false childhood memories, subjects have typically been exposed to personalized and detailed narratives describing false events. Instead, we exposed 20 subjects to a false childhood event via a fake photograph and imagery instructions. Over three interviews, subjects thought about a photograph showing them on a hot air balloon ride and tried to recall the event by using guided-imagery exercises. Fifty percent of the subjects created complete or partial false memories. The results bear on ways in which false memories can be created and also have practical implications for those involved in clinical and legal settings.