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Department of Pyschology research featured in Radio 4 documentary

Researchers from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology are conducting ground breaking work into false memories.

The research, led by Dr Kimberley Wade, was featured in the BBC Radio 4 documentary Past Imperfect.

Featuring an experiment conducted at the University, Past Imperfect explores how false memories can be artificially generated to change people's behaviour - with implications for advertising, military intelligence and the addiction treatment.

Discussing the research Dr Wade said:

"When I meet new people and tell them that I study human memory, they usually say to me, “Oh, great! Can you tell me why my memory is so bad? I forget things all the time. I forget a person’s name the minute they tell me.’ My reply is usually, ‘Well, I don’t study why people forget. I study why people remember. Most of my work looks at why and how people remember aspects of events or even entire events that never happened.’ At this point, the conversation turns. When people think about human memory they often recall situations in which their memory has failed them—times they have forgotten to lock the door, pick up some milk, or even collect their kids from school. But what people don’t really think about is the malleable nature of memory.

"Our memories of significant, personal events can be wildly wrong. And distorted, or false, memories can be held with great confidence, emotion, and detail. Past Imperfect looks at why our memories are malleable and the conditions in which our memories can change. Perhaps even more interesting is new research that shows false memories could be used in positive ways to improve health and well-being, but this line of research is still very young and raises some interesting ethical issues."

The experiment saw three members of the Warwick community undergo two sets of tasks a week apart.

During the first set of tasks they were asked sit at a desk with an assortment of objects. The human guinea pigs were then asked to interact with the objects in a variety of ways for a set period of time, such as roll the dice or throw a hat. Secondly, they were asked to do nothing but imagine the act of performing various actions, to concentrate and imagine how it would feel to actually perform them.

One week later the participants returned and were given a list of actions; some which they had actually performed the week before, some they simply imagined and some that hadn’t been mentioned at all. They were asked to rate each action for whether they actually remembered performing them.

Warwick may have a handful of places available in clearing for Pyschology in 2015. Warwick’s clearing hotline number will be 024 7653 3544 and it will open at 8am on Thursday 13th August.

12 August 2015


Tom Frew - International Press Officer

Email: a dot t dot frew at warwick dot ac dot uk

Tel: +44 (0)247 657 5910

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