Why do doctored images distort memory?

Robert A. Nash*, Kimberley A. Wade, Rebecca J. Brewer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Doctored images can cause people to believe in and remember experiences that never occurred, yet the underlying mechanism(s) responsible are not well understood. How does compelling false evidence distort autobiographical memory? Subjects were filmed observing and copying a Research Assistant performing simple actions, then they returned 2 days later for a memory test. Before taking the test, subjects viewed video-clips of simple actions, including actions that they neither observed nor performed earlier. We varied the format of the video-clips between-subjects to tap into the source-monitoring mechanisms responsible for the 'doctored-evidence effect.' The distribution of belief and memory distortions across conditions suggests that at least two mechanisms are involved: doctored images create an illusion of familiarity, and also enhance the perceived credibility of false suggestions. These findings offer insight into how external evidence influences source-monitoring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-780
Number of pages8
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number3
Early online date27 May 2009
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2009

Bibliographical note

© 2009, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/


  • autobiographical belief
  • doctored images
  • fabricated evidence
  • false memory
  • familiarity
  • metacognition
  • source monitoring


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