Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Mind

Punked! Slate's Doctored Photos Mess With Readers' Memories

DiscoblogBy Joseph CalamiaMay 28, 2010 12:21 AM
clinton.gif

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

"How will we remember the 2000s? What were the high and low points? Who were the heroes and villains?" William Saletan asked in a Slatearticle last week. Do you remember when Senator Joe Lieberman voted to convict President Clinton at his impeachment trial, when President George W. Bush chilled at his Texas ranch with Roger Clemens while Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, and when Hillary Clinton used Jeremiah Wright in a 2008 TV attack ad against Barack Obama? You shouldn't remember any of these things, because they didn't happen. But Slate made pictures to use as evidence that these events did actually occur as an exercise in "altering political memories." Slate mixed doctored photos of these fake events with other photos of real ones, and asked the readers which they remembered. The readers had no idea they were part on an experiment in memory hacking. More people remembered the real ones, Slatereports:

In the first three days the experiment was posted, 5,279 subjects participated. All of the true incidents outscored the false ones. Our subjects were more likely to remember seeing Powell's Iraq presentation (75 percent), Katherine Harris presiding over the Florida recount (67 percent), or Tom DeLay leading the congressional effort to save Schiavo (50 percent) than any of the five fake scenes.

But people remembered the fakes too. A fake screenshot of the Hillary Clinton ad, for example, fooled 36 percent of readers into thinking it had actually happened. "At that time I was backing Hillary for President. I didn't like it that she used this rather sleazy ad, but her campaign did remove it," one respondent said. The stunt paid homage to memory research; a series of articles on Elizabeth Loftus' human memory research at the University of California at Irvine will follow. Slate meant to show the power of images in producing false memories. Besides quoting George Orwell, they also mentioned a 2002 experiment that, with a little Photoshop magic, fooled 10 out of 20 college students into believing they had gone up in hot-air balloons as children. Related content: 80beats: Lasers Write False, Fearful Memories into the Brains of Flies 80beats: Neuroscientist Says Torture Produces False Memories and Bad Intel DISCOVER: Are Recovered Memories Real? DISCOVER: How Much of Your Memory Is True? Image: flickr / Nrbelex

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In