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What I mean is, is it possible to create memories in a childs mind, memories which a child grows up to remember as real events, when infact those events never happened in real life?

For example:

If a child has a fear of bugs, and has never been bitten by bugs, if I keep telling the child that "bugs will never bite your arm". If I say this phrase every single day to a child, 5 to 10 times a day for a year, what are the chances of that child having a dream that a bug comes up to the child and bites him/her on the arm? Then when the child grows up, s/he remembers a vague memory of a bug bitting him/her which s/he thinks was a real event which happened in the passed.

Is this sort of this possible?

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Yes, it's called a "source monitoring error" I believe. For example I have heard a story my parents used to tell about when I was 3 and I remember the event happening now, even though my memory of it is completely incorrect; in reality I imagined the event as I heard my parents recall the story, and I remember my imagination, but my brain has forgotten that the source of the memory was my imagination and not my senses. – Josh Gitlin Jul 25 '13 at 19:29
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's possible to instill a false memory, even a traumatic one, in an adult. Children have been known to be more susceptible to suggestion since the 19th century (Binet, 1900, 1905).

Here are some example references of memory implantation:

Porter, S., Yuille, J. C., & Lehman, D. R. (1999). The nature of real, implanted, and fabricated memories for emotional childhood events: Implications for the recovered memory debate. Law and Human Behavior, 23(5), 517-537.

Zaragoza, M. S., & Mitchell, K. J. (1996).Repeated exposure to suggestion and the creation of false memories. PsychologicalScience, 7, 294-300.

(specifically memory implantation in kids)

Loftus, E. F., Coan, J. A., & Pickrell, J. E. (1996).Manufacturing false memories using bits of reality. In L. Reder (Ed.), Implicit memory and metacognition (pp. 195-220). Mahwah, NJ:Erlbaum

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For more recent work on false memories, look at this paper. The authors provide a biological basis for false memories. They also implant false memories in mice.


Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu, Pei-Ann Lin, Junghyup Suh, Michele Pignatelli, Roger L. Redondo, Tomás J. Ryan, and Susumu Tonegawa. Creating a False Memory in the Hippocampus. Science, 26 July 2013: 387-391 DOI:

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To be fair, that's an extraordinarily unlikely method in which a false memory would be implanted in a child. In addition, that's really more about the biological basis for memory than false memories per se. They demonstrated with false memories to prove how robust the method is, not to uniquely demonstrate false memories. – John Feb 24 '14 at 12:31

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