from the DRAM-is-to-SRAM-as-Human-Memory-is-to-??? dept.
Brittny Mejia writes at the Los Angeles Times that while some are accusing Brian Williams of deliberately lying about his account of being on a helicopter under attack in Iraq, researchers have long said that memory is not as straightforward as we tend to think. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology and social behavior at UC Irvine, has been conducting research into planting false memories of events in people's minds and found that people can be convinced of these made-up memories through the power of suggestion. "Memory is susceptible to contamination and distortion and supplementation. It happens to virtually all of us," says Loftus. "This could easily be the development of a false memory." According to Daniel Schacter we create these false memories because our brains are designed to tell stories about the future. “Memory’s flexibility is useful to us, but it creates distortions and illusions,” says Schacter. “If memory is set up to use the past to imagine the future, its flexibility creates a vulnerability — a risk of confusing imagination with reality.”
Williams isn't the only one involved in the incident who recanted claims and blamed his memory. Pilot Richard Krell originally said that he was at the command of the "second bird" in a formation of three Chinooks, with Williams riding in the back of the "second bird." Krell said all three of the helicopters came under "small arms fire," lending support to the stories Williams told over the years about being "under fire" in Iraq. However Krell later recanted after the newspaper Stars and Stripes published a story contradicting his account. "The information I gave you was true based on my memories, but at this point I am questioning my memories," Krell said. "For the past 12 years I have been trying to forget everything that happened in Iraq and Afghanistan; now that I let it back, the nightmares come back with it, so I want to forget again."