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Saturday, February 9, 2013

False Political Memories

Our chapter on public opinion discussses "nonattitudes," a phenomenon where people express opinions even when they know nothing of the subject. False memory is a closely related phenomenon. Steven J. Frenda and colleagues have a new article in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, "False Memories of Fabricated Political Events."  Here is the abstract:
In the largest false memory study to date, 5,269 participants were asked about their memories for three true and one of five fabricated political events. Each fabricated event was accompanied by a photographic image purportedly depicting that event. Approximately half the participants falsely remembered that the false event happened, with 27% remembering that they saw the events happen on the news. Political orientation appeared to influence the formation of false memories, with conservatives more likely to falsely remember seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, and liberals more likely to remember George W. Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. A follow-up study supported the explanation that events are more easily implanted in memory when they are congruent with a person's preexisting attitudes and evaluations, in part because attitude-congruent false events promote feelings of recognition and familiarity, which in turn interfere with source attributions.