While researching my Serious Play presentation on Memory, I came across another article that I thought deserved its own attention. In this case, it was a finding that interest in a topic increases false memories about that topic. This is a weird one, because you would think the more interested you are in a topic, the more accurate your memory would be about that topic. And that’s not wrong. But these researchers found an interesting side effect.
The study recruited participants who were asked to pick topics they were interested in and disinterested in. Participants were then shown media clips related to each topic. While participants were better able to accurately answer questions about content of those media clips for topics they were interested in than topics they were not interested in, they were also found to have created more false memories about things that did not happen in those media clips if they topic was one they had indicated interest in. Now, there are lots of highly cognitive theories that could be evoked to explain this. But for me, I think it could be far simpler than that. When we are interested in a topic, we hold more knowledge about it. Because we have dedicated more time on it. And when we hold more knowledge about something, we feel more comfortable abstracting information.
Let me give you an example. I’m really interested in fighting, and I’m not very interested in ballet. If you were to ask me questions about ballet, I would feel unprepared and unable to answer them. If you ask me questions about a fight however, I have watching and been in enough fights (as a workout people) that I could probably fill in all types of gaps between what I know and what I may not know but think I do. So I probably have a lot of false memories about fights because my brain has created some. As opposed to ballet. No false memories there. Because I have so little experience with it.
So, again, for the hundredth time. Fact. Check. Yo. Self.
Reference: O’Connell, A. O. & Greene, C. M. (2017). Not strange but not true: Self-reported interest in a topic increases false memory. Memory, 25(8), pp. 969-977.