In research conducted by the Weizmann Institute, under certain circumstances application of a bit of social pressure can cause people to assert false memories as real. In a four stage experiment volunteers were asked to watch a documentary film, then asked to return individually, then asked to return again, this time in using an MRI device to scan their brain while they answered questions about the film. In this return visit the subjects were then given a lifeline (as in "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"). The catch here is that the lifeline was using planted, incorrect responses. The subjects conformed to the group on these answers and ended up answering wrong 70% of the time.
The moral for this is to understand and know ourselves well enough to understand when we don't know something and own up to it vs. going along with the prevailing wisdom because it is "just so".
The other question is one of how do we handle pressure from others, especially from our peers or from authorities? We have to be constantly mindful and aware of our state of mind and to exercise good judgment.
For the rest of the story, go to: http://wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il/science-of-false-memories
I think this is a great study. As I put on my amateur anthropologist hat I love to see things like this or studies about how people work. My personal feeling is that people tend to want to create positive outcomes for events that they experience in their minds. For example, if you are in a fender bender with someone, you may be more likely to have both parties feel the opposing was at fault because they remember the situation differently. This leads me to the subject of entitlement. Entitlement is rampant here in our world. People in many first world countries especially. Its almost like we forgot how to depend on ourselves. Its almost like many of us forgot how important the simple things are in life.
In a study done in 2001 in Delhi on nearly 700 newly diagnosed cancer cases, where the patient's response one week aftre the initial consultation with the oncologist was recorded, it was found that in 82% of the cases, even though the oncologist never mentioned the word 'cure' and always used 'treatment', the patient construed the meaning to be cure and were confident that they will be cured. I was personally involved in many of these interviews. This supports the view of Francis that people tend to create positive outcomes for themselves in spite of odds heavily stacked against them.
No effort was later made in the study to remove any bias that may have creeped nto the patient's response due to other social factors, as the study was from the point of view of finding and recommending to the treating oncologist the best ways to break the news to a newly diagnosed cancer patient.