Friday, September 12, 2008

Imperfect Memories: The Existence of the Non-Existent...

"Four out of 10 people have false memories of the 2005 London bombings, according to researchers who questioned students about what they remembered seeing on news reports of the events. Some people claimed to have seen non-existent CCTV footage of the bus exploding in Tavistock Square in July 2005, while others gave detailed descriptions of footage which did not exist.

The study shows how prone people are to "false memories", which the researchers say police and social workers must take into account when evaluating witness testimony or "recovered" memories of childhood abuse.

"Taken as a whole, this is further evidence that our memories are not perfect,"
said Dr James Ost, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth. "They are not like a videotape you can rewind and replay for perfect recall. Because of this, memory alone is not reliable enough to form the basis of legal decisions."

He gave questionnaires to 150 British students and 150 Swedish students on what they remembered of the Tavistock Square bomb three months after the attacks. None had seen the bomb first hand. He asked the students what they remembered about TV footage of the aftermath of the bomb and about CCTV images of the bus exploding and a computer reconstruction of the event.

Neither the CCTV or the computer reconstruction existed, but 40% and 28% of British respondents claimed to remember seeing them. The equivalent figures of the Swedish participants were 16% and 6%.

Some of the students embellished their accounts with details they could not have witnessed. One wrote: "The bus has stopped at a traffic light. There was a bright light and a loud bang and the top of the bus flew off." The study backs up previous research by Ost in which people claimed to have seen non-existent footage of the crash in Paris that killed Princess Diana."

-James Randerson, ("Study Shows How False Memories Rerun 7/7 Film That Never Existed," The GuardianUK, 9.10.08. Image: From the book, "The Mind and Its Education" 12.26.06).

1 comment:

Sinclair said...

From an article discussing the same paper by Dr James Ost:

To investigate how reliable our memories are, he asked people in the U.K. and Sweden if they'd seen CCTV footage of the bus bombing in the city's Tavistock Square. 84% per cent of U.K. respondents said that they had, compared to 50% of Swedish participants, when in fact, no such footage exists.

the article continues...

In the UK, reports and analysis of the events continued relentlessly for weeks and months, said Ost, whereas in Sweden the bombings were headline news for only a few days.

This seems to prove the case that the more incessant the news coverage, the more a(n un)certain picture will be formed in the public's mind.

There were, of coure, numerous conflicting reports in the weeks following the July 7th 2005 incidents, and further anomalies with the 'official explanation' later released (details here).