Monday, July 18, 2011

Peer pressure influences our memories

Fascinating observations from Edelson et al., who examine how our accurate initial memories of an event can be be changed by hearing different accounts from others. They find that activity in the hippocampus and amygdala brain regions involved in memory can vary, depending on how our memory has been shaped by interacting with others. Here is their abstract:
Human memory is strikingly susceptible to social influences, yet we know little about the underlying mechanisms. We examined how socially induced memory errors are generated in the brain by studying the memory of individuals exposed to recollections of others. Participants exhibited a strong tendency to conform to erroneous recollections of the group, producing both long-lasting and temporary errors, even when their initial memory was strong and accurate. Functional brain imaging revealed that social influence modified the neuronal representation of memory. Specifically, a particular brain signature of enhanced amygdala activity and enhanced amygdala-hippocampus connectivity predicted long-lasting but not temporary memory alterations. Our findings reveal how social manipulation can alter memory and extend the known functions of the amygdala to encompass socially mediated memory distortions.

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