Imagination can create false autobiographical memories

Psychol Sci. 2003 Mar;14(2):186-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2000.01821.x.


Previous studies have shown that imagining an event can alter autobiographical beliefs. The current study examined whether it can also create false memories. One group of participants imagined a relatively frequent event and received information about an event that never occurs. A second group imagined the nonoccurring event and received information about the frequent event. One week before and again 1 week immediately after the manipulation, participants rated the likelihood that they had experienced each of the two critical events and a series of noncritical events, using the Life Events Inventory. During the last phase, participants were also asked to describe any memories they had for the events. For both events, imagination increased the number of memories reported, as well as beliefs about experiencing the event. These results indicate that imagination can induce false autobiographical memories.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Suggestion