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Cheating our minds: can this be done ?

  1. Jan 21, 2010 #1
    Let's say that you want to have a memory about yourself having saved a kitten's life (for a random, obscure example). But in reality, you never saved a kitten's life in your lifetime.

    Has anyone seen some sources/books that describe mind techniques that can be used by an individual to intentionally "create" a memory that has never existed before, and to be able to believe in it as if it really did happen?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 21, 2010 #2


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    I know that there have been studies (tho i can't cite anything cus I saw this on Nat geo or Discovery) that say people are susceptible to implanted memories. The example I've seen was that psychiatrists convince their patients that they once got lost in the mall when they were really young, even though they didn't.

    I don't know if you can trick yourself though...
  4. Jan 21, 2010 #3
    Isn't this sort of a method used to cheat polygraph tests? I'm not sure exactly how it works though... I'll look more into it.
  5. Jan 21, 2010 #4
    I believe the most reveilving as well as notorious episodes in the nature of falsified memories were a result of psychiatrists enamored with inplanting pacients with memories of being raped by their fathers as a children while under their care. There should be plenty internet search material on this matter.

    As we are forever living our own self created reality, you have already accomplished the task. Why do you want some of a more disconnected nature?
  6. Jan 21, 2010 #5
    There is a famous incident where a psychology professor was teaching his class and a man came into the class, walked up to a student, jabbed him quickly in a cloak and dagger sort of fashion, then ran out. The students were all immediately evacuated from the room and the police called. Officers took statements from the students many of which gave detailed descriptions of the knife used to stab their fellow student. Little did they know that their fellow was alive and well only having been "stabbed" with a banana.

    It is actually a normal function of our brains to fill in information gaps. If we see or hear something but do not have enough information to work with to "know" what exactly we are seeing or hearing we would easily fall prey to dangers while puzzling out what is going on. So instead our brain fills the gaps for us with its best guess. The same thing happens with memory. Our memories naturally degrade over time and our brains often fill in the missing bits when we contemplate those memories again years later. It works with short term memory too I believe, if say you were not paying particular attention to something a moment ago and suddenly realize something important was said you may try to puzzle it out from your incomplete memory and even convince yourself that something was said that was not. If you did not see it before you should look up videos of experiments regarding "change blindness".
  7. Jan 21, 2010 #6
    Lie detector test. I guess it was just something I saw in a movie one time and just now I thought I read about it lol. I looked it up and it's not listed as a method of cheating the polygraphs.

    I do not think it would be possible for a 'normal' person to cheat their own minds.
  8. Jan 21, 2010 #7
    I do agree that this is how our brains work, but I do not think this is what the OP is questioning.

    I think he is looking for can we PURPOSELY cheat our minds. I.e. make ourselves believe we've done something etc. For the normal everyday person I would say this is not possible. They will always know that it is something they have just cheated themselves into thinking. Some people with various mental conditions however may be able to do this, I'm not sure.
  9. Jan 21, 2010 #8
    It is a device that monitors your heart rate, among other things, to attempt to determine if you are telling the truth. They are more popularly called "Lie Detectors".
  10. Jan 21, 2010 #9
    I was meaning to show that our minds already do this sort of thing as a normal part of its functioning, making us believe a reality which we did not necessarily experience, so it would not be very far fetched to believe that one could attempt to trigger this sort of thing intentionally. Doing so would likely require some measure of ability to ignore cognitive dissonance.
  11. Jan 22, 2010 #10
    The thing is that our minds do this sub-conciously. We are unaware of the process going on when our brain receives the input from our perceptions.

    It's completely different ballpark to introduce the conciousness into the mix. You are asking yourself to knowingly introduce a false situation that you know is false but believe it's true and force yourself to believe it's true while you know it's false. You will always be thinking about it being false or else you will be thinking it's true but only because you WANT to think it's true when it's really false. (Either way you don't 'truly' believe it's true.)

    This is something like trying to make yourself think nothing.
  12. Jan 22, 2010 #11
    It works consciously too. Most people try to remember something which they do not have a clear memory of, an idea pops into their head, and then they decide to believe it instead of questioning it. Its certainly not the same thing but similar. We clearly have the ability to ignore the fact that we do not know a thing and decide that we do, I see people do it daily. I've done it myself though I now try to be sure that I think more critically.

    As for being conscious of the fact that one thing is true and the other is false, this is why I brought up cognitive dissonance. Now that I think of it this is probably where the OP may find more insight. One would have to train themselves to ignore the dissonance or already have the ability naturally. At some point they will obviously have to be possessed of both ideas, they need only convince themselves to ignore the dissonance and accept the fiction as truth and eventually they will reject the previous notion. The only real difficulty comes in when a person has some strong motivation to hold onto the original belief. If you believe a thing then you are offered an alternative belief which seems to be more suitable (i.e. the world is flat < the world is round) and you have little reason to hold onto the original belief you will have little hesitation in rejecting the old idea for the new one. Incrementally this becomes more difficult if we increase the level of conviction invested in the original notion. Passing from a thing which we can reason as true despite previous beliefs to a thing which we can not reason so and on to things which we patently know are false is only a sort of threshold which can definitely be crossed.
  13. Jan 22, 2010 #12
    I think that some already do this from time to time. The thing is, once you have done it you totally forget what and how you did it since otherwise you wouldn't have been successful doing it!
  14. Jan 22, 2010 #13
    I am curious as to why you ask. Do you know someone who seems to have done this to themselves?
  15. Jan 22, 2010 #14


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    I once read about a team of psychologists that were trying to train people who were at risk of being arrested and tortured (mainly political dissidents from Africa) techniques for coping with ongoing trauma before it even happened. As far as I remember this involved being able to manipulate your own memory (creating "happy" memories to replace traumatic ones) and also to "create" something which was almost like a split personality disorder (something that is extremely rare otherwise).
    Both techniques would have -if successful- been very dangerous. but might perhaps be better than the alternative.

    That said, I have no idea if they ever succeeded.

    But, as has already been pointed out, yes there are indeed techiques for doing this.
  16. Jan 22, 2010 #15


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    You fake it 'til you make it.

    As others mentioned, filling in unknown blocks of info with pure fiction is a normal thing for humans to do. To do it intentionally only takes the motivation (a depressing real life, for example) and repetition.

    Remember what you did (with details) long enough and often enough and it will be indistinguishable from your other memories of things that did (or didn't) happen.
  17. Jan 22, 2010 #16
    Maybe it can be done by a hypnotist.
  18. Jan 22, 2010 #17
  19. Jan 22, 2010 #18
    It seems obvious that a person would want to be resistant to forming false memories, which is why I am curious as to whether the OP wants to form one, or wants to unravel one.
  20. Jan 22, 2010 #19

    take the brain out, put it in warm water, soap and rub thoroughly, rinse, repeat as often as needed
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