Memory & Cognition

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 414–424 | Cite as

Digitally manipulating memory: Effects of doctored videos and imagination in distorting beliefs and memories

  • Robert A. Nash
  • Kimberley A. Wade
  • D. Stephen Lindsay


In prior research on false autobiographical beliefs and memories, subjects have been asked to imagine fictional events and have been exposed to false evidence that indicates that the fictional events occurred. But what are the relative contributions of imagination and false evidence toward false belief and memory construction? In the present study, subjects observed and copied various simple actions; then they viewed doctored videos that suggested that they had performed extra actions and they imagined performing some of those and some other actions. Subjects returned 2 weeks later for a memory test. False evidence or imagination alone was often sufficient to cause belief and memory distortions; in combination, they appeared to have additive or even superadditive effects. The results bear on the mechanisms underlying false beliefs and memories, and we propose legal and clinical applications of these findings.


False Memory Mental Imagery Critical Action False Confession Memory Rating 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bernstein, D. M., Laney, C., Morris, E. K., & Loftus, E. F. (2005a). False beliefs about fattening foods can have healthy consequences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102, 13724–13731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernstein, D. M., Laney, C., Morris, E. K., & Loftus, E. F. (2005b). False memories about food can lead to food avoidance. Social Cognition, 23, 11–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chambers, K. L., & Zaragoza, M. S. (2001). Intended and unintended effects of explicit warnings on eyewitness suggestibility: Evidence from source identification tests. Memory & Cognition, 29, 1120–1129.Google Scholar
  4. Corwin, D. L., & Olafson, E. (1997). Videotaped discovery of a reportedly unrecallable memory of child sexual abuse: Comparison with a childhood interview videotape 11 years before. Child Maltreatment, 2, 91–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Desjardins, T., & Scoboria, A. (2007). “You and your best friend Suzy put Slime in Ms. Smollett’s desk”: Producing false memories with self-relevant details. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 1090–1095.Google Scholar
  6. Dreifus, C. (2007, October 2). Proving that seeing shouldn’t always be believing. New York Times, p. D2.Google Scholar
  7. Finke, R. A., Johnson, M. K., & Shyi, G. C. (1988). Memory confusions for real and imagined completions of symmetrical visual patterns. Memory & Cognition, 16, 133–137.Google Scholar
  8. Gallo, D. A., Roediger, H. L., III, & McDermott, K. B. (2001). Associative false recognition occurs without strategic criterion shifts. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 8, 579–586.Google Scholar
  9. Garry, M., Manning, C. G., Loftus, E. F., & Sherman, S. J. (1996). Imagination inflation: Imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 3, 208–214.Google Scholar
  10. Garry, M., & Polaschek, D. L. L. (2000). Imagination and memory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9, 6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garry, M., & Wade, K. A. (2005). Actually, a picture is worth less than 45 words: Narratives produce more false memories than photographs do. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 359–366.Google Scholar
  12. Geraerts, E., Bernstein, D. M., Merckelbach, H., Linders, C., Raymaekers, L., & Loftus, E. F. (2008). Lasting false beliefs and their behavioral consequences. Psychological Science, 19, 749–753.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Ghetti, S. (2003). Memory for nonoccurrences: The role of metacognition. Journal of Memory & Language, 48, 722–739.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Goff, L. M., & Roediger, H. L., III (1998). Imagination inflation for action events: Repeated imaginings lead to illusory recollections. Memory & Cognition, 26, 20–33.Google Scholar
  15. Greene, E., Flynn, M., & Loftus, E. F. (1982). Inducing resistance to misleading information. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 21, 207–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gudjonsson, G. H. (2003). The psychology of interrogations and confessions. Chichester, U.K.: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Hart, R. E., & Schooler, J. W. (2006). Increasing belief in the experience of an invasive procedure that never happened: The role of plausibility and schematicity. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20, 661–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Henkel, L. A., & Carbuto, M. (2008). Remembering what we did: How source misattributions arise from verbalization, mental imagery, and pictures. In M. R. Kelley (Ed.), Applied memory (pp. 213–234). Haupauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Hyman, I. E., Jr., Husband, T. H., & Billings, F. J. (1995). False memories of childhood experiences. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 9, 181–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hyman, I. E., Jr., & Pentland, J. (1996). The role of mental imagery in the creation of false childhood memories. Journal of Memory & Language, 35, 101–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Johnson, M. K., Foley, M. A., Suengas, A. G., & Raye, C. L. (1988). Phenomenal characteristics of memories for perceived and imagined autobiographical events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 117, 371–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Johnson, M. K., Hashtroudi, S., & Lindsay, D. S. (1993). Source monitoring. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 3–28.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Johnson, M. K., & Raye, C. L. (1981). Reality monitoring. Psychological Review, 88, 67–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Johnson, M. K., & Raye, C. L. (2000). Cognitive and brain mechanisms of false memories and beliefs. In D. L. Schacter & E. Scarry (Eds.), Memory, brain, and belief (pp. 35–86). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Johnson, M. K., Raye, C. L., Wang, A. Y., & Taylor, T. H. (1979). Fact and fantasy: The roles of accuracy and variability in confusing imaginations with perceptual experiences. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 5, 229–240.Google Scholar
  26. Kassin, S. M., & Kiechel, K. L. (1996). The social psychology of false confessions: Compliance, internalization, and confabulation. Psychological Science, 7, 125–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kelly, J. E., & Nace, D. (1994). Digital imaging and believing photos. Visual Communication Quarterly, 1, 4–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Landau, J. D., & von Glahn, N. (2004). Warnings reduce the magnitude of the imagination inflation effect. American Journal of Psychology, 117, 579–593.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Lindsay, D. S. (2008). Source monitoring. In J. H. Byrne (Series Ed.) & H. L. Roediger III (Vol. Ed.), Learning and memory: A comprehensive reference. Vol. 2: Cognitive psychology of memory (pp. 325–348). Amsterdam: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  30. Lindsay, D. S., Hagen, L., Read, J. D., Wade, K. A., & Garry, M. (2004). True photographs and false memories. Psychological Science, 15, 149–154.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Loftus, E. F., & Guyer, M. J. (2002, May/June). Who abused Jane Doe? The hazards of the single case history, Part I. Skeptical Inquirer, 26, 24–32.Google Scholar
  32. Loftus, E. F., & Palmer, J. C. (1974). Reconstruction of automobile destruction: An example of the interaction between language and memory. Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior, 13, 585–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Loftus, E. F., & Pickrell, J. E. (1995). The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720–725.Google Scholar
  34. Loftus, G. R. (1978). On interpretation of interactions. Memory & Cognition, 6, 312–319.Google Scholar
  35. Loftus, G. R., & Masson, M. E. J. (1994). Using confidence intervals in within-subjects designs. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 1, 476–490.Google Scholar
  36. Lynn, S. J., Pintar, J., Stafford, J., Marmelstein, L., & Lock, T. (1998). Rendering the implausible plausible: Narrative construction, suggestion, and memory. In J. de Rivera & T. R. Sarbin (Eds.), Believed-in imaginings: The narrative construction of reality (pp. 123–143). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mazzoni, G., & Kirsch, I. (2002). Autobiographical memories and beliefs: A preliminary metacognitive model. In T. J. Perfect & B. L. Schwartz (Eds.), Applied metacognition (pp. 121–145). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mazzoni, G., & Memon, A. (2003). Imagination can create false autobiographical memories. Psychological Science, 14, 186–188.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. McCabe, D. P., & Smith, A. D. (2002). The effect of warnings on false memories in young and older adults. Memory & Cognition, 30, 1065–1077.Google Scholar
  40. Nash, R. A., & Wade, K. A. (2009). Innocent but proven guilty: Eliciting internalized false confessions using doctored-video evidence. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 624–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pezdek, K., Blandon-Gitlin, I., & Gabbay, P. (2006). Imagination and memory: Does imagining implausible events lead to false autobiographical memories? Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 764–769.Google Scholar
  42. Pezdek, K., Finger, K., & Hodge, D. (1997). Planting false childhood memories: The role of event plausibility. Psychological Science, 8, 437–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pezdek, K., & Lam, S. (2007). What research paradigms have cognitive psychologists used to study “false memory,” and what are the implications of these choices? Consciousness & Cognition, 16, 2–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roediger, H. L., III, & McDermott, K. B. (1995). Creating false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition, 21, 803–814.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Scoboria, A., Mazzoni, G., Kirsch, I., & Relyea, M. (2004). Plausibility and belief in autobiographical memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 18, 791–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Seamon, J. G., Philbin, M. M., & Harrison, L. G. (2006). Do you remember proposing marriage to the Pepsi machine? False recollections from a campus walk. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 13, 752–756.Google Scholar
  47. Thomas, A. K., Bulevich, J. B., & Loftus, E. F. (2003). Exploring the role of repetition and sensory elaboration in the imagination inflation effect. Memory & Cognition, 31, 630–640.Google Scholar
  48. Thomas, A. K., & Loftus, E. F. (2002). Creating bizarre false memories through imagination. Memory & Cognition, 30, 423–431.Google Scholar
  49. Tousignant, J. P., Hall, D., & Loftus, E. F. (1986). Discrepancy detection and vulnerability to misleading postevent information. Memory & Cognition, 14, 329–338.Google Scholar
  50. Wade, K. A., & Garry, M. (2005). Strategies for verifying false autobiographical memories. American Journal of Psychology, 118, 587–602.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Wade, K. A., Garry, M., Read, J. D., & Lindsay, D. S. (2002). A picture is worth a thousand lies: Using false photographs to create false childhood memories. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 9, 597–603.Google Scholar
  52. Wade, K. A., Sharman, S. J., Garry, M., Memon, A., Mazzoni, G., Merckelbach, H., & Loftus, E. F. (2007). False claims about false memory research. Consciousness & Cognition, 16, 18–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Watson, J. M., McDermott, K. B., & Balota, D. A. (2004). Attempting to avoid false memories in the Deese/Roediger-McDermott paradigm: Assessing the combined influence of practice and warnings in young and old adults. Memory & Cognition, 32, 135–141.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert A. Nash
    • 2
  • Kimberley A. Wade
    • 2
  • D. Stephen Lindsay
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of WarwickCoventryEngland

Personalised recommendations