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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Why We Already Have False Memories of the COVID-19 Crisis

Julia Shaw
Psychology Today
Originally posted 10 April 20

Here is an excerpt:

How this pandemic is giving you false memories

What this means is that if you already have false memories of what you have done, heard, or seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, you probably can't spot them. Both your memory of the news, and your memories of emotional events that are happening in your life are possibly being changed or contaminated.

A few things make us more susceptible to false memories right now:
  • Source confusion. What we learn from multiple sources about the same topic can very quickly become confused. This can lead to creating false memories based on source confusion, which is when we misattribute where you learned something. For example, in reality it was your weird uncle who said that thing, but your brain may incorrectly be sure it was the BBC. That's a small false memory, but at a time like this, it can have profound effects. Especially when that thing is a dangerous misconception.
  • Fake news. Some of the content we see online will be false or misleading. Reading headlines or posts in a rush, we may not realise that a story is from an unreliable source. Fake news is often specifically created to be memorable, and to influence our thoughts and behaviour. According to research, people are "most susceptible to forming false memories for fake news that aligns with their beliefs" (3).
  • Co-witness contamination. We are all witnesses of this world event, witnesses who are talking to each other all the time. If the COVID-19 pandemic were a crime scene, this would be really bad news. Witnesses can influence one another, and their memories tend to blend - these are called co-witness effects. As found repeatedly in research, "Witnesses who discuss an event with others often incorporate misinformation encountered during the discussion into their memory of the event" (4).
  • Sameness. Every day we hear unprecedented news or horrific medical stories. But after weeks or months of the same type of information, with a reduction in the amount of new and exciting things happening elsewhere, it gets difficult to separate this long stream of information into meaningful bits. Brains aren't made for sameness; they want separation and novelty. This means that whether it's another "how are you" conversation, another statistic, or another day at home...our memories are blending. This makes it easy to get memories mixed up, even important ones.

The info is here.