Does Time Impact How Easy it is to Create False Memories?
Science Fair Abstract
Grade 8, Home Schooled
Lansing, Michigan U.S.
Courts have put people to death and CPS taken children over false memories. I wanted to learn how time impacts false memory creation.
I believed more time before leading questions would yield more false memories.
I had my assistant ask subjects to answer questions for me, then leave their sight. I assigned 1/3 to wait 1, 5, and 15 minutes before asking 10 questions—first, what my questions concerned; eight, some leading, about my assistant’s appearance; and last, how many answers subjects thought were wrong. I compared data between groups.
No one correctly guessed my questions’ content. On average the 1 minute group got 5.25 of 8 about my assistant’s appearance wrong (but thought they got 7.25 wrong); the 5 minute group got 5.5 wrong (thought 5 wrong); and the 15 minute group got 5.25 wrong (thought 2.75 wrong).
My hypothesis was wrong: More time did not increase ease of creating false memories, which stayed stable across time. Increased time did increase subjects’ confidence in answers. This study shows memory as easily influenced right away as later and that witnesses grow more convinced of correctness with time—even if wrong.
Since no one guessed my questions’ content, I believe this accurately represents how many real-world witnesses recall information. A larger sample would make it more generalizable.