We like to think we own our memories -- that no one can tamper with them or reveal their hidden contents. Emerging research suggests, however, that under certain circumstances, we can implant false memories, dampen the intensity of emotions associated with memories, and even reveal the content of memories people would prefer to keep secret. As we develop more effective ways to access and alter the memories of others, our memories start to seem less and less our own.
In her recent TEDTalk, Elizabeth Loftus described decades of research showing that we can alter existing memories and even implant false memories of events that never occurred. Subjects given misleading information that they got sick from eating strawberry ice cream in childhood were more likely, on average, to believe that they really were made sick by it than control subjects not given the information. The power of suggestion to alter memories has led many police departments to change their interrogation procedures to avoid inadvertently influencing witnesses. You might have thought we own our memories because no one can implant false ones. But that view is very much in doubt.