Harvard psychology chair Daniel Schacter, in his new book The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers writes about "consistency biases" that lead us to recast past beliefs and feelings so they resemble what we now believe and feel, "blocking" (having a name on the tip of your tongue, for instance, and not being able to recall it), and suggestibility. Of the latter, Schacter writes:
This refers to memories that are implanted as a result of leading questions, comments or suggestions made when a person is trying to call up a past experience. This is especially relevant to the legal system, and can sometimes wreak havoc. Ten months after an air disaster in Amsterdam university staff were asked: “Did you see the TV film of the moment the plane hit the apartment building?”, and two-thirds said yes, recalling the speed, the angle of impact, what happened to the fuselage. There was no TV film of the incident.
Marketers are clamoring to get in on the action. "Memory morphing," championed by Jerry Zaltman, a psychologist affiliated with Harvard Business School, is a practice of constructing advertisements to create false memories. In his book How Consumers Think, he writes, "When asked, many consumers insist that they rely primarily on their own first-hand experience with products - not advertising - in making purchasing decisions. Yet, clearly, advertising can strongly alter what consumers remember about their past, and thus influence their behaviours... What consumers recall about prior product or shopping experiences will differ from their actual experiences if marketers refer to those past experiences in positive ways." Disney's "Remember the Magic" ad campaign, researchers say, was created to invoke real or imagined memories of a happy childhood, for example. Elizabeth Loftus, a former University of Washington professor, did a study where she showed subjects a TV spot that suggested children visiting Disneyland had the opportunity to shake Bugs Bunny's hand. Later, many from the study believed they'd remembered meeting the cartoon rabbit during childhood visits to the park--an impossibility since Bugs is a Warner Brothers character. Loftus said: "This brings forth ethical considerations. Is it OK for marketers to knowingly manipulate consumers' pasts?"

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