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False memory syndrome Term Paper


The memory of human beings stores information which is regularly retrieved when needed. As a matter of fact, some pieces of information are indeed stored in human brain while others are not. This largely depends on the interests of an individual in terms of various styles of information being encountered from time to time. In addition, it is worth noting that there are some types of information that are stored for a longer period of time while others just for a short time (Loftus, 2005).

Therefore, the human memory can be compared to that of a computer system that often works in a similar way. For instance, both the human brain and a computer system do disseminate, store, process, retrieve and transmit information in more or less the same way. There are myriad of similarities between the two systems in spite of alight differences.

The process of storing information begins the very moment when information is acquired. This is referred to as encoding. After the process of encoding, the next stage entails the storage of the given information until at that time when it will be needed. When the stored information is required, it is retrieved from source.

Unlike in the case of computers whereby all information can be stored for long, the time of storage for any given piece of information among human beings largely depends on the circumstances at which it is stored. In other words, a human being has the capability to store information, which includes memory of the senses, memory that store information for a short time as well as that which stores information for a longtime.

The sensory memory behaves like a cell storage place, which stores information shortly and then it is forgotten after the occurrence of an event. The brain is not able to interpret and relate the information it receives from sensory memory (Brandon & Green, 2008). In addition, the short term memory is based on the senses just like the sensory memory. It has the information which has just taken place.

Though it depends on the senses like the sensory memory, it lasts a little bit longer than sensory memory. In this case, the brain can interpret the information received for comparison reasons. Furthermore, the human brain has the long term memory. This form of memory is responsible for long term storage of information within the brain. As usual, it can be retrieved whenever needed for other purposes.

Human beings can fail to remember stored information in different circumstances. For instance, when distracted by other events, they are not able to associate correctly. One can choose what they don’t want to remember, such as some information that includes painful memories, bitter endings, and grief and thus they push them out. We also have the case where one suffers from amnesia, which can be psychological or physiological. The latter condition can also interfere with both short and long term memory.

Discussion on the false memory syndrome

There are unusual types of memories that are not stored in the human brain. In any case, they are created by an individual who, in one way or another, strongly believes in them in spite of the fact that they are false.

This condition is referred to as the false memory syndrome (Loftus, 2005). In most cases, individuals suffering from this syndrome are adults who concentrate on memories of traumatic encounters from their childhood which may not necessarily be real. It is believed that most people do experience moments of false memories although not all may be categorized as suffering from this syndrome.

When a person’s life is affected by these memories and no longer lives and thinks normally, it progressively and gradually leads to the condition referred to as the False Memory syndrome. This syndrome makes a person not to be able to confront problems encountered in real life, and they focus on the false memories. Nonetheless, the condition has not yet been classified as a mental disorder yet.

There are many controversies surrounding the condition of false memory syndrome. According to Sigmund Freud in his deliberation of the psychoanalytic theory, the personality development of an individual is largely influenced by the past childhood experiences.

Freud believes that an individual’s personality depends on the different interactions of the id, ego and the super-ego. He further explains that repressed painful memories are not entirely deleted from the human mind, but they are sent to the powerful unconscious memory (Leigh, 2001). These memories can influence an individual’s behavior on a day-to-day basis.

Freud’s findings bring the idea that some of the memories that are categorized to be false memories that emanates from the unconscious memory. It is worth noting that the unconscious memory of a human being may either be realistic or unreal and therefore cannot be depended or relied upon for making sound judgments. These memories are able to be remembered in a therapy, and their remembrance depends on the surroundings of a person.

If memories can be influenced by environment, then research studies shows that there is a possibility that in a therapy session, what a therapist communicates to a patient may be a source of false memory syndrome. Research shows that therapists have a significant influence on their patients.

Therefore, professionalism is a crucial tool to them when dealing with sensitive issues on their patients’ memories. Other than therapy, most empirical studies on human psychology has shown that other factors like hypnosis and people’s suggestions can create false memories in an individual.

Freud suggests that not all human behavior is depended on an individual’s childhood experiences. A collection of factors altogether results into an individual’s behavior. This research concludes that the condition of false memories is possible to occur to persons who have never had such experiences in their early lives. Evidence to this is that, when we look at our self when we were young and now, we are totally different because of the transformations, which take place with time.

Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development in children explains that children intellect development takes place in stages. In the development of an individual, the memory of an adult is more developed compared to that of young ones. The infant’s brain is not fully developed and, therefore, according to Jean Piaget, it is not able to keep some memories.

Piaget argues that since the inferior prefrontal lobe is responsible for keeping information for a long time, and it is not fully developed in children then any childhood memories which comes up when one is an adult are false memories (Piaget, 1999). Memories of an abuse are complicated and for an infant to remember such is impossible. Piaget explains that such memories are memories of other memories.

In adults who experience traumatic experiences, they can push these memories from their mind. The human brain does push those disturbing memories from the mind automatically to avoid shock and nervousness. In later stages of the life of this individual, they may experience exaggerated version of the real encounter. These individuals believe that these memories are what they experienced even if they have proof that they are false (Piaget, 1999). This is a case of the false memories syndrome resulting from an experience.

According to the trait theory, different people’s behavior is explained in terms of opposite fixed characteristics. As such, and there are two types of people. One of the groups is assumed that their feelings and thoughts influence their behaviors. The other group is believed that their behavior is determined by their perception. This idea explains why some people have false memories while others behave differently.

The group of people who are guided by their thoughts and feeling they are bound to experience false memories syndrome. Once they encounter a traumatizing experience, from their feelings they can create a false memory (Brandon & Green, 2008). In addition, seeing a traumatizing act being done on another person can influence their feelings hence creating a false memory of the act being done to them.

The group of people whose behavior depend on their judgments, are usually not prone to false memory syndrome condition. For judgment to be made there should be a process that involves consideration of a number of options. These may include other people’s opinions as well as well informed individual opinions. If a person in this group experiences memory which is not distinct, one can consider other people’s ideas on the same and from their judgment they are likely to believe in the right ideas.

The behaviorist theory explains how persons develop certain traits in their life time, opposing Freud’s theory. The theory states that a person develops a trait or a certain attitude as a result of response or the consequences of the trait.

A reinforcement of attention may lead to persons developing false memories, which make them believe that they are who they are not. In this case, the false memory syndrome is not due to traumatizing memories but due to wishes or dreams not achieved in a person’s life (Leigh, 2001). The result of this is fantasies of what they think they have achieved, and they are convinced it is the truth.

From the research and findings on the false memory syndrome, it is clear that the condition revolves around a human’s memory accuracy, completeness and effects of suggestions on it (Dallam, 2002). First it is essential to understand how complete our memories are. This can be answered by considering information given to a group of people and the reports given by each on the same information.

Assessing the reports, they appear a little different from the original information, either some details are omitted or they have additional information.
It is clearly shown that our memories are not complete, when it comes to retrieving what is stored in them, or they don’t record all details.

The only information remembered is the basics, forgetting the small details. This explains the origin of false memories, where one only remembers that an abusive act took place, but details like who did it, and to whom, are not remembered (Brandon & Green, 2008). One adds false details to the little they can decode hence false memory syndrome.

Our minds accuracy is the other bit, which is highly essential to understand in order to explain the issue on false memory syndrome. The accuracy of our memories depends on the situation being used to test its accuracy.

For any test to be administered, it is reasonable to alert an individual that a test is being performed. In recording any given information, it is necessary to highlight the salient details for completeness of our memories. If they don’t focus on the minor details of an occurrence then in time of retrieval only what was emphasized will accurately be obtained, and the gaps are filled, which may be filled with false information, resulting to false memo syndrome.

Lastly is how our minds are prone to suggestions, research has revealed that, in a normal situation, human memory can be prejudiced. Memories can be influenced by happenings or ideas surrounding a person (Dallam, 2002).

However, false memories can be created by considering other people’s suggestions, a case which mostly affects under a lot of pressure. Research also shows that false ordinary memories are easier to suggest to a person than false traumatic memories. This supports the idea that memories of trauma are hardly false memories unless they are exaggerated from what happened.

From the findings, the issue becomes more complicated for the more contradicting information is obtained each day. Studies come up with extremely diverse ideas depending on the methods of study used in the different researches. There are methods of study, which can be used, the outcome is positive, and other which give negative outcomes. The context of study also gives different ideas, which before any conclusion is drawn it needs to be understood.

From the discussion, it is clear that the personality of an individual depends on different issues, which include, environment, explained by the behaviorist theory. Genetics and the self concept factor are also explained. The last is the health of an individual which apart from influencing the personality of an individual, it also can lead to the occurrence of false syndrome.

To recap it all, it is imperative to note that a lot of empirical studies that have been carried out in the past on false memory syndrome are quite unanimous in terms of findings and research conclusions. In addition, much information has been gathered about the false memory syndrome condition.

The findings are quite categorical that false memory syndrome is a condition that exists. What is not yet clear is the way in which the syndrome occurs (its etiology). Besides, differentiating the condition from real memory is still a challenge in the field of human psychology. In the first theory by Freud, he emphasizes that adult memories are as a result of experiences drawn from their childhood experiences, which can also be false.

Moreover, concluding that false memory syndrome exist or does not exist at this moment may not be fully justified since there may be lack of proper and adequate substantiation of the stated claims. Therefore, additional research should be extended in this field of human psychology in order to understand the condition in a different context while applying various methods of research.


Brandon, S. & Green, R. (2008). Recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse: implications for clinical practice. British Journal of Psychiatry 172 (4): 296–307.

Dallam, S. (2002). Crisis or Creation: A systematic Examination of false Memory Claims. Journal of Child Sexual Abuse. 9(3): 9-36.

Leigh, G. (2001). The limits of autobiography: trauma and testimony. London: Cornell University Press.

Loftus, E. (2005). Memory: Surprising New Insights into How We Remember and Why We Forget. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

Piaget, J. (1999) Plays, Dreams and Imitation in Childhood. New York: Norton.

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