In their research on formation of false memories, Loftus and Pickrell were interested in understanding how revised information about events affects memory of these events. The research was founded findings of many studies that people give disparate description of an event they witnessed when they read misinformation on the same information.
The researchers wanted to answer the question whether suggestions concerning an event could actually provoke memories of an event that took place or even never took place. It aimed at establishing the rate of clarity and confidence on memory of past events.
Twenty four subjects participated in the study of which three were males and twenty one female. Included in the study also were subjects’ close relatives. The subjects were selected by students from university of Washington.
The subjects possessed certain characteristics. They were aged between 18 and 53 years old. The pair was comprised of close relatives, either parents or siblings. The minimum age of the subjects’ relatives was 18 years but there was no maximum age however they were older than then subjects. The relatives were required to be knowledgeable on the subjects’ childhood experiences.
The researchers sent the subjects a five-page booklet containing four events by mail. With the booklet was a cover letter containing the directions for filling in the booklet and scheduled interviews. The three true events were provided by the subjects’ relatives and involved childhood experiences of the subject that happened when they were aged 4 to 6 years. The researchers were careful to avoid events that were easily memorable or traumatic to remember. The relatives also helped in fabricating the false event. The order of presentation of the four events in the booklet and in the interview was the same. One paragraph description of the event appeared at the top of the page leaving the rest of the page back to provide space for the subject write down the details of memory about the event. On submission of the booklet, the subjects were interviewed twice with duration of two weeks between interviews. To avoid raising eyebrows about the study among the subjects, they were informed that the study was aimed at knowing how and why people remember some events and not others.
The research was an experimental study where memory about childhood events was manipulated. The rate of clarity of memory for each event was recorded as provided by the subject. Memory of events was rated on a scale of 1 to 10. The events that were not very memorable were rated I and most memorable 10. Subjects’ rating of their confidence on the events memory was recorded. This was done on a scale of 1 to 5 with I rating given to a memory that the subject was not very confident about.
The study found that both false and true events were remembered either partially or fully. Out of the 72 events that subjects were required to remember, 49 which represent 68% were remembered. It was also found that 29% of false events were remembered either partly of fully. The clearness of true events was higher than that of false events.
The study concludes that memory distortion actually happens. Giving suggestions on an event can lead to memory distortion to an extent of remembering partly or fully an event that did not even take place at all.