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Knowing too much gives false memories


Knowing a lot about something doubles the risk of false memories, scientists in Ireland said on Thursday, giving insight into why experts sometimes make errors on their own specialised subjects.

People more knowledgeable about a subject were twice as likely to remember incidents relating to that topic that never happened.

University College Dublin researchers asked 489 people to rank seven topics, including football, politics and science from most to least interesting.

They then asked if they remembered events described in four news items about the topic they selected as most interesting and four items about the topic they selected as least interesting.

The results showed that if someone was interested in a topic, it increased frequency of accurate memories relating to that topic.

But it also in creased the number of false memories too 25% of people experienced a false memory related to an interesting topic, compared with 10% related to a less interesting topic.

“Increasing public understanding of the causes of false memory is an important goal, particularly in light of some of the more negative consequences associated with the phenomenon, including faulty eyewitness accounts and the controversies surrounding false memories of traumatic childhood events,” said Dr Ciara Green, lead author of the study.

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