In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section False Memory

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Books for Academic Audiences
  • Books for Popular Audiences
  • Journals
  • False Memories for Words
  • Early Research on False Memories for Childhood Events
  • Imagination
  • Static and Video Images
  • Implausible and Impossible False Memories
  • Individual Differences Predicting False Memories
  • Meta- and Mega-Analyses
  • Case Studies
  • Theoretical Explanations
  • Critiques and Responses
  • Non-Believed False Memories
  • Beliefs about False Memories and Ethics of Implanting False Memories

Psychology False Memory
Cara Laney Thede, Elizabeth Loftus
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0216


Memory accuracy and memory distortion have been studied for well over a century, but it is only in the last few decades that researchers have actively implanted memories for events that did not happen at all. This research area arose out of a need to explain consequential memories that were appearing in courtrooms and implausible memories that were appearing in therapists’ offices—some of these issues are addressed in this bibliography. In the intervening years, researchers have implanted complex, detailed, and emotional memories for event, including implausible and even impossible events. Techniques vary from presentation of thematic word lists to falsified feedback and images to repeated interrogation. Research has addressed who is likely to develop false memories and under what circumstances. Recent research has focused on the cognitive neuroscience of false memory and various factors that could potentially distinguish between true and false memories.

General Overviews

For those desiring to familiarize themselves with the research on false memory, there are several good options. Bornstein 2017 gives an extremely readable background on the historical context of false memory research, including repression and hypnotically induced memories, as well as recent research findings. Newman and Lindsay 2009 provides an argument for why false memories exist and how they relate to the overall functioning of human memory. Neuschatz, et al. 2007 and Newman and Garry 2013 are two different perspectives on the historical context and broad research findings in edited volumes intended for academic audiences (see also Books for Academic Audiences). Laney and Loftus 2013 focuses on current directions in false memory research.

  • Bornstein, B. H. 2017. Popular myths about memory: Media representations versus scientific evidence. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

    Chapter 3 (“An Unholy Tetrad”) covers the history of and ongoing issues with the popular concepts of repression and recovered memories, and the related scientific evidence.

  • Laney, C., and E. F. Loftus. 2013. Recent advances in false memory research. South African Journal of Psychology 43:137–146.

    DOI: 10.1177/0081246313484236

    Describes relatively recent research on false memories, including their consequentiality and emotional content.

  • Neuschatz, J. S., J. M. Lampinen, M. P. Toglia, D. G. Payne, and E. Cisneros. 2007. False memory research: History, theory, and applied implications. In The handbook of eyewitness psychology. Vol. 1, Memory for events. Edited by M. P. Toglia, J. D. Read, D. F. Ross, and R. C. L. Lindsay, 239–260. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Deep and thorough treatment of the history of research on false memory and related phenomena, implications of the research, and techniques that may help mitigate the effects of false memories.

  • Newman, E. J., and M. Garry. 2013. False memory. In The SAGE handbook of applied memory. Edited by T. J. Perfect and D. S. Lindsay, 110–126. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Clear and helpful overview of the misinformation effect and false memories for complete events. Addresses many of the issues covered in this bibliography, including theoretical issues, plausibility, images, and imagination.

  • Newman, E. J., and D. S. Lindsay. 2009. False memories: What the hell are they for? Applied Cognitive Psychology 23:1105–1121.

    DOI: 10.1002/acp.1613

    Describes how memory errors, including false memories, can be explained as byproducts and sometimes even features of a powerful memory system.

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