Thursday, December 1, 2011

SECRETS OF MEMORY: Part VI False memory implanted by public notions

The tabloid press and the electronic media indulging sensationalism frequently report cases of seemingly sane individuals who recall being abducted by aliens and taken aboard unidentified flying objects (UFOs). From a scientific viewpoint, such reports are difficult to accept as anything other than false because they are so bizarre and implausible. How, then, they might be explained?  Psychologist Nicholas P. Spanos  has given a reasonable explanation.  According to Spanos such recollections are delusional false memories instilled into the mind of an individual through sociocultural mechanisms. Such memories are called delusional false memories. Delusional memory is implanted by suggestions coming from the sensational stories covered in the tabloids; bizarre stories reported on televisions; and statements made by friends and family.  

False memories of Betty Hill
Betty Hill was an avid believer in UFOs before the night that she and her husband, Barney, claimed to have seen a strange light following, their car. Betty’s sister suggested that she and her husband may have been “irradiated” by the light. Betty began to have nightmares in which she and Barney were abducted by aliens who took them on board a UFO, communicated with them telepathically, performed medical tests, and showed Betty a star map.
A psychotherapist who treated Betty for her nightmares used hypnosis to elicit detailed reports of these events from both her and Barney, who had heard these accounts from his wife numerous times. The psychotherapist concluded that the reports were delusional false memories shared by the couple. Such false memories are similar to false memories called confabulations which are usually created by the individuals with loss of memory due to brain injuries. In the case of individuals with delusional false memories, the power of their belief system constructs the delusional memories.  

Memories of the previous birth
Belief in reincarnation rationalizes memories of previous births. Reincarnation is different from resurrection. In reincarnation the soul or spirit, after the death of the body, is believed to return to live in a new human body, or, in some traditions, either as a human being, animal or plant. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism; the Buddhist concept of rebirth is also often referred to as reincarnation. The idea was also fundamental to some Greek philosophers as well as other religions, such as Druidism. It is also found in many small-scale societies around the world, in places such as Siberia, West Africa, North America, and Australia. Resurrection of the Dead is a belief found in a number of eschatology, most commonly in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian. In general, the phrase refers to a specific event in the future; multiple prophesies in the histories of these religions assert that the dead will be brought back to life at some point in the future. Most eschatology believe in a universal resurrection of all of the dead, while a minority, such as the Christadelphians believe that only a select will be resurrected.

The story of Shanty Devi
In the 1930s the case of a 9-year-old girl Shanty Devi of Delhi was given wide publicity as a proof for reincarnation. The girl claimed to be a member of the Choubey family of Mathura in her past life. Mathura, a town 145 kilometers from Delhi was never visited by the girl or her parents. It is claimed by the believing ‘specialists in reincarnation’ that the girl explained many details of the town Mathura the Chouban family. 

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