New research suggests that political predispositions are linked to enhanced likelihood of false memories. The findings have been published in the journal Political Psychology.
Julia Shaw, lead researcher at Psychology Science, demonstrated that false memories are quite common and that they can even be intentionally created. In a study published in the Journal of Psychological Science, researchers demonstrated that innocent adults could even be convinced that they had committed crimes as serious as assault when they were teens.
Another participant reported recalling events related to the 2018 Irish abortion referendum that had never happened. The findings have prompted the authors of the present paper to consider the issue of political perceptions in general.
We know a great deal about the influence of partisanship on everyday perceptions of political and non-political information, events, issues, and groups. For instance, partisanship affects the interpretation of information (e.g., whether, say, 1,000 war casualties are a large or small amount).
We were interested to know whether this phenomenon would extend to the recollection of previous events, which might suggest that emotional attachments to a party may influence not only how we perceive new information, but how we recall (supposedly) existing information.
Armaly and his colleague Adam Enders conducted two research to examine the connection between self-predispositions and political predispositions. In October 2019 the first study included 962 participants recruited by Lucid.
One event fabricated by the researchers stated is that a 2020 phone call between US Senator Mitch McConnell and President Trump disclosed to the group in which Trump claims that there was no fraud but that people must believe it if they are going to win big in the 2022 midterm elections.'
Another fabricated event read: A conversation from the Pentagon in September 2021 revealed that President Biden directed senior military officials to think about a drone strike to distract attention from the disastrous Afghan extraction operation.
The participants were asked whether or not they remembered the event after reading each vignette. They could answer either I remember seeing/hearing this, I do not remember seeing/hearing this but I remember it happening, I do not have a specific memory of this but I believe it happened, or I do not remember this.
The researchers included the response option I do not have a specific memory of this, but I believe it did help distinguish false beliefs from false memories. Participants were far more likely to recount false memories than false beliefs. Nearly a third of participants claimed that they remembered an event that never happened. Many participants provided vivid details of the events that they did not know about the fabricated event.
Republicans were more likely to falsely recall events that portrayed Trump in a positive light and events that portrayed Democrats in a negative light, according to the researchers. This partisan bias in remembering was only observed for fake events.
Armaly told PsyPost that individuals are often quite certain that their recollection of certain events is a precise, time-stamped record of what transpired. Rather, partisanship biases our memory of political events such that we (falsely) recall events that are favorable to our in-group (or favorable to the out-group).
Armaly added that we also investigated the psychological and political implications of false memories. It appears to be a bipartisan phenomenon, and certain psychological and personality traits like narcissism, conspiratorial thinking, and susceptibility to pseudo-profound bullshit are linked to an increased tendency to falsely remember a political event.
The study provides further insight into the relationship between false memories and politics. However, research in this area is still in its preliminary stages. Armaly noted that the best method for measuring false memories is still unknown, among other things.
According to him, determining what counts as true and false has been a philosophical quandary for millennia. We do not claim to settle that debate in the political context, where one's assessment of truth or falsity is a function of existing beliefs about the world.
Whether or not misremembering a half-true event is the same as misremembering a totally false event, or if partisan prejudice will matter more or less for the half-true event
Armaly continued that we do not consider which characteristics of a fabricated event are most likely to create false memories. While we do find that partisan bias may be related to the tendency to falsely remember certain events, but not others, we cannot explain why certain events are more or less likely to induce false memories.
Lastly, we are unable to categorize whether or not the tendency to forget false events is asymmetric across political parties; future work might focus on differences in false memories across relevant groups.
Filling in the Gaps: False Memories and Partisan Bias was published on May 27, 2022.