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“Luke, I Am Your Father”: The Formation of False Memories

The Mandela Effect

The Mandela Effect

The phenomenon known as the Mandela Effect is characterized by the formation of false collective memories where many people share the same mistaken memory.

  • The name is due to the false memory some people have about Nelson Mandela, the South African leader. They believe he died in the 1980s while in prison. In reality, he died in 2013 at the age of 95.
  • Another popular example: The famous phrase attributed to Darth Vader in Episode V of the Star Wars saga, revealing to Luke Skywalker that he was his father: "Luke, I am your father." However, the fact is that this phrase was never said in this way. The phrase spoken by Darth Vader, in fact, is: “No, I am your father."

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False memories
False memories

A false memory refers to a distorted recall of an event.

They can be completely unreal. In some cases, false memories may comprise aspects of the fact that have been disto...

Characteristics of a false memory

Common elements of false memory include:

  • Mental experiences that people think are authentic and exact representations of past events.
  • Meaningless specifics (thinking you hung your keys near the door when you got home) to much more meaningful and serious ones (thinking you can provide details related to a crime, because you think you saw someone at the scene.)
  • False memory is not the same thing as the common memory errors. A false memory is not just a simple error, because it relates to a level of confidence in the legitimacy of the memory.
False memories: what causes them
  • A false memory can be influenced by aspects like misinformation and misattribution of the original source of the information.
  • Existing knowledge and other memories can also interfere with the creation and development of a new memory, causing the recollection of an event to be mistaken or entirely false.
  • It is also possible to induce false memories through suggestion.
Childhood amnesia
Childhood amnesia

On average, people’s memories stretch back no farther than the age of three and a half.

New science suggests that when we move into adulthood, the brain must let go of muc...

Our earliest memories are forgotten
  • In the early 1900s, Sigmund Freud gave childhood amnesia its name. The most commonly accepted explanation for childhood amnesia was that children couldn't form stable memories until age 7 - even though evidence for this idea was lacking.
  • In the late 1980s, experiments revealed that children three and younger keep their memories, although it is limited. At 6 months of age, infants' memories last for a day, and by age 2, for a year. At around age 6, children begin to forget many of their earliest memories.
The early childhood brain

From birth to our early teens, we have far more links between brain cells. The excess brain mass is very adaptable and allows children to learn very quickly.

But the adaptability comes with a price. The large and complex network in the brain is still busy growing and not as capable of forming memories efficiently as in adulthood. Consequently, long-term memories created in our first three years of life are the least stable and prone to be forgotten as we age.

Repressed vs Recovered Memories
Repressed vs Recovered Memories

Memories are the switch buttons of information related to our learning and experiences that can be preserved and restored in the brain of humans.

People having sharp memories have the stori...

The Dissolved Repressed Memory
  • Forgetting about normal aspects is considered as a common event/ability. However, the extreme trauma is sometimes forgotten depending upon the extremity and seriousness of sufferings or due to the fear of futuristic results of a current situation, leading to the dissociative disorders.
  • The various dissociative disorders like a dissociative fugue, depersonalization disorder and dissociative identity disorder have a massive impact on the brain which disconnects the person with the thoughts, emotions, identity of oneself and the nearby surroundings.
  • The connection between these disorders with extreme trauma is still a part of the research for psychologists.
The Process of Memory

The brain is the holder of various information stored in it in different ways in its different parts. Some memories are stored forever and can be recalled anytime, whereas some are partially retrieved.

But the memories which are traumatic become repressed despite having huge information or a massive experience.