Monday, November 26, 2007

Fake Photos Alter Real Memories

Our minds can play tricks on us. That is why anecdotal evidence is not the same as scientific evidence. The process of science tries to ensure that the evidence is valid and not simply something fleeting that fools our mind.

Over the years, there have been many evidence on how our mind can play tricks on us, to the extent that we truly believe something actually happened, when in effect, it did not. At the very least, our view of "facts" can actually be altered simply by external stimuli. This is what has been shown to occur in this latest research. A number of subjects have been shown faked photos of famous public events, and these photos can actually alter the perception of the subjects who viewed them.

The original Tiananmen Square image was altered to show a crowd watching at the sidelines as a lone man stands in front of a row of tanks. The Rome anti-war protest photograph was altered to show riot police and a menacing, masked protester among the crowd of demonstrators.

When answering questions about the events, the participants had differing recollections of what happened. Those who viewed the altered images of the Rome protest recalled the demonstration as violent and negative and recollected more physical confrontation and property damage than actually occurred.

Participants who viewed the doctored photos also said they were less inclined to take part in future protests....

Scientific methodology is designed to ensure that we're not seeing something that is influenced by how our mind can play tricks on us, or how things can influence on the evidence itself. That is why a scientific evidence is more RIGOROUS than an anecdotal one.

The full reference for this work is listed below:

Dario L. M. Sacchi et al., Applied Cognitive Psychology v.21, p.1005 (2007).


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