Different Stories

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Why Do The Visions Change as they are Retold?

  • With an adult,, changing the story often means that the first version was a lie. But with children, it is more likely that the first version was the truth and that later versions are untrue, as the child searches to find something which will satisfy the person asking the questions. (Brain, Christine, Advanced Psychology: Applications, Issues and Perspectives)
  • It is by now a well-established fact that people are less accurate and complete in their eyewitness accounts after a long retention interval than after a short one... The accumulation of research tells us that after a year, memory will be less accurate than after a month; after a month it will be less accurate than after a week. (Loftus, Elizabeth F., Eyewitness Testimony)
  • What happens when a witness sees some event and later learns a piece of new information which conflicts with some aspect of what was previously seen? It appears that when possible many witnesses will compromise between what they have seen and what they have been told later on. (Loftus, Elizabeth F., Eyewitness Testimony)
  • In real life, as well as in experiments, people can come to believe things that never really happened. One of the nicest examples of this can be found in the reminiscences of the psychologist Jean Piaget (1952):
There is also the question of memories which depend on other people. For instance, one of my first memories would date, if it were true, from my second year. I can still see, most clearly, the following scene, in which I believed until I was about fifteen. I was sitting in my pram, which my nurse was pushing in the Champs Elysees, when a man tried to kidnap me. I was held in by the strap fastened round me while my nurse bravely tried to stand between me and the thief. She received various scratches and I can still see vaguely those on her face. Then a crowd gathered, a policeman with a short cloak and a white baton came up, and the man took to his heels. I can still see the whole scene, and can even place it near the tube station. When I was about fifteen, my parents received a letter from my former nurse saying that she had been converted to the Salvation Army. She wanted to confess her past faults, and in particular to return the watch she had been given as a reward on this occasion. She had made up the whole story, faking the scratches. I, therefore, must have heard, as a child, the account of this story, which my parents believed, and projected into the past in the form of a visual memory. (pp. 187-188)
(Loftus, Elizabeth F., Eyewitness Testimony)