A bit of social pressure may be able to falsify memories because of the surprising connection between our social selves and the memory, says a new study.
To confirm this, researchers from University College London conducted an experiment wherein, volunteers were made to watch a documentary film in small groups.
After three days, the volunteers returned to the lab individually to take a memory test, answering questions about the film. They were also asked how confident they were in their answers.
Following this, they were once again called back to the lab to retake the test while being scanned in a functional MRI (fMRI), revealing their brain activity.
This time, the subjects were also given a 'lifeline': the supposed answers of the others in their film-viewing group (along with social-media-style photos).
However, the researchers had planted false answers to the questions that volunteers had previously answered correctly and confidently.
It emerged that the participants conformed to the group on these 'planted' responses, giving incorrect answers nearly 70 pc of the time.
The researchers invited the subjects back to the lab to take the memory test once again, telling them that the answers they had previously been fed were not those of their fellow film watchers, but random computer generations.
The results showed that some of the responses reverted back to the original, correct ones, but close to half remained erroneous, implying that the subjects were relying on false memories implanted in the earlier session.
An analysis of the fMRI data also showed differences in brain activity between the persistent false memories and the temporary errors of social compliance.
The researchers reported that the most outstanding feature of the false memories was a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas, the hippocampus and the amygdala.
The study appears in the journal Science.