False Memory is Not a Syndrome

False memories are a normal part of everyday life and are not a symptom of mental ill-health or disease.

Labelling false memories as an expression of ‘false memory syndrome’ is incorrect. Writing in Scientific American, Dr Julia Shaw says:


False memories may sound extraordinary, but they are far from it.

Normal people, with normal brains, have false memories all the time. Our brains are beautifully flexible, which allows us to have capacities like intelligence, creativity, and problem-solving. One price of this flexibility is that we sometimes get our memories wrong.

A syndrome, however, is not a normal feature. A syndrome is characterized by symptoms, and a symptom is “a physical or mental feature that is regarded as indicating a condition of disease”.

But false memories aren’t a disease. We all have them. Having them is healthy and normal. We may not like our false memories, and they can have disastrous legal repercussions, but even in the worst cases they are still just the products of healthy brains.


To read more please visit the Scientific American website.

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