x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

False events, false memories

A study found that the likelihood of a person remembering something that didn't happen correlates with his or her personal beliefs

Remember when US President Barack Obama shook hands with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Or when George W Bush was photographed entertaining former baseball star Roger Clemens at his ranch in Texas while Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on New Orleans?

Well, those things never happened - even though up to half of a group of 5,269 Americans said they remembered them after being shown manipulated photographs portraying these and other fake news events.

Psychologists from the University of California, Irvine and staff of the online magazine Slate.com conducted an experiment where false news stories and photographs were mixed up with real ones.

According to the researchers' recently published findings, the likelihood of a person "remembering" something that didn't happen correlates with his or her personal and political beliefs. Thus, conservatives were more likely to recall the negative story involving Mr Obama, a Democrat, and liberals were more likely to remember the story that put Republican Mr Bush in a bad light.

Perhaps the message for the rest of us is to approach everyone and everything with an open mind, lest we become victim to manipulation and self-deception.