Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

False memories of self-performance result from watching others' actions

Date:
September 14, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Did I turn off the stove, or did I just imagine it? Memory isn't always reliable. Psychological scientists have discovered all sorts of ways that false memories get created, and now there's another one for the list: watching someone else do an action can make you think you did it yourself.

Did I turn off the stove, or did I just imagine it? Memory isn't always reliable. Psychological scientists have discovered all sorts of ways that false memories get created, and now there's another one for the list: watching someone else do an action can make you think you did it yourself.

The team of psychological scientists who found the new way to create false memories weren't setting out to make a big discovery. They were trying to learn more about imagination, another way that false memories get created. But then in an experiment, they found that people who had watched a video of someone else doing a simple action -- shaking a bottle or shuffling a deck of cards, for example -- often remembered doing the action themselves two weeks later.

"We were stunned," says Gerald Echterhoff, of Jacobs University Bremen. He cowrote the study, published in the journal Psychological Science, with Isabel Lindner of the University of Cologne, Patrick S.R. Davidson of the University of Ottawa, and Matthias Brand of the University of Duisburg-Essen. They changed course to examine this phenomenon more closely with a series of experiments.

In each experiment, participants performed several simple actions. Then they watched videos of someone else doing simple actions -- some of which they had already performed, and some of which they had not. Two weeks later, they were asked which actions they had done. They were much more likely to falsely remember doing an action if they had watched someone else do it. This happened even when participants were told about the effect and warned that it could happen to them. The results are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Echterhoff says you shouldn't worry that this happens all the time -- but it's worth remembering that your memory isn't always reliable. "It's good to have an informed doubt or informed skepticism about your memory performance, so you don't just easily trust whatever comes to your mind as true and for granted."

He thinks the mechanism may have something to do with internal simulation of what other people are doing while we are observing them. Intriguingly, if simulation was the mechanism, it would occur spontaneously and without our awareness. To speculate further, this simulation could involve brain structures like the 'mirror neuron system,' which seems to be involved both in performing actions ourselves as well as in observing other people's actions. Simulation is good when it helps you predict someone's next action, or to learn how to do things, but this could be an unfortunate side effect.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Isabel Lindner, Gerald Echterhoff, Patrick S.R. Davidson, Matthias Brand. Observation Inflation: Your Actions Become Mine. Psychological Science, 2010; 21: 1291-1299 DOI: 10.1177/0956797610379860

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "False memories of self-performance result from watching others' actions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914131006.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, September 14). False memories of self-performance result from watching others' actions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914131006.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "False memories of self-performance result from watching others' actions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100914131006.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Your Birth Season Might Determine Your Temperament

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A new study says the season you're born in can determine your temperament — and one season has a surprising outcome. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Movies Might Desensitize Violence For Parents, Not Just Kids

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) A study suggests that parents become desensitized to violent movies as well as children, which leads them to allow their kids to view violent films. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins