How To Change A Memory

A study was put out years ago that tested how a single word could change someones memories. I always thought it would be so cool to be able to control someones mind, and this is exactly what this study tested. The experiment showed the participants a car crash. They would later be asked questions about the severity of the car crash. Depending on how the question was asked the severity would change. When the crash was called a "contact" the crash was less severe, when words like "smash" were used the speed of the crash would go up. This showed that the people's memory of the incident could be altered.

This experiment may seem simple, but it has also stood the test of time. The experiment was conducted in the 70s and has been able to withstand questioning from other scientists. It was also a very well controlled test with the phrase hit being used as the control since that is the most used word to describe how the cars collided.

To me this is a very valuable experiment that does prove something we already knew. The value is that we can not quantify this knowledge. To me the next question is how we use this in daily life. Is it a subconscious effort that are brains make to twist our words to our advantage, or is it something that only masters of language can use? To me it is a mixture of both, everyone has the ability to use this and does it without noticing, but the masters of language have the ability to control peoples thoughts with language whenever they want.  


It is interesting that you can manipulate someone's response by the words that you use to describe an incident. I feel like lawyers use this same type of concept when recreating a image for a jury. Often the plaintiff's lawyer will make the incident sound like a "explosion" while the defendant's lawyer might call it a "pop". Politicians often use the same tactic when describing their opponent. I would like to know why we are so effected by words, when we witnessed the incident ourselves.

I think we are so influenced by a single word because each one word creates a new image, and when the person is describing the incident we are using their description to remember it. To me an explosion gives me the image of a bomb going off, while a pop is like a balloon popping and gives almost a happy feeling. The words people use to describe the event are we picture, but since we know the event the minor details can get filled in by us. This allows us to believe we are thinking that the memory in our head is correct, but when truly it is much more, or less severe.

I never knew this before. I really think that it is interesting that the word choice used to describe various incidents can really change the response you get out of somebody. Is it a way to suppress memories? Or is it a way to get a response that might help or hurt someone even if they do not need that extra boost? Why would someone want to alter a reaction to something?

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