False memories, defined as recollections
of events that never really took place (Galotti),
have for long drawn the attention of psychologists and public in general (McDermott & Roediger, 1995).
Bartlett (1932), who was recognised for his pioneering work on memory
distortions had his subjects read a Native Indian folktale, “The War of the
Ghosts” and recall it using serial reproduction (McDermott & Roediger, 1995).
Most researchers have followed Bartlett’s (1932) paradigm (McDermott & Roediger, 1995).
Bransford and Franks (1971) too
followed suit (McDermott & Roediger, 1995).
Through their experimental study on false memories, they concluded that information
acquired is integrated to be stored into memory. Their study involved showing the
participants a list of sentences, all obtained from four simple sentences: “The ants were in the kitchen”,
“The jelly was on the table”,
“The jelly was sweet” and
“The ants ate the jelly.” The sentences given to participants were
either presented a combination of two simple sentences (e.g. The sweet jelly
was on the table) or a combination of three simple sentences (e.g. The ants ate
the sweet jelly on the table), following which a recognition test was
conducted. Participants had to determine for every sentence on the recognition test,
whether they had seen the exact sentence before and also had to rate their
confidence regarding their judgement. Findings revealed that participants were
most confident in ‘recognising’ the distractor sentence that merged all four
simple sentences (e.g. “The ants in the kitchen ate the sweet jelly that
was on the table”). The investigators proposed that instead of storing an
identical copy of the actual sentences in their memory, “they absorbed the
idea, and abstracted and reorganised the information in the sentences by
integrating them”. Consequently, during
the recognition test, they failed to differentiate between the original
sentences and their own integration (Galotti).