Children and adolescents - even adults for that matter - may report with all sincerity that they had been sexually abused in the past or witnessed a murder or other crimes. But sometimes the person, though earnest, is wrong: The memory is a false one.
Having false memories - "recalling" events that did not happen - is a real phenomenon that is vitally important to law and medicine. Since it has only been readily recognized since the early 1990s, the science of false memory is a complex and burgeoning field.
A new book, "The Science of False Memory" (Oxford University Press, 2005) by two Cornell University professors, Charles Brainerd and Valerie Reyna, brings together and makes accessible to the general reader the decade or so of intensive research on false memory.
"False memories are a hot topic in psychological research and a major issue for society," says Daniel L. Schacter, professor of psychology at Harvard University. "'The Science of False Memory' provides a compelling scholarly analysis that ranges from laboratory studies to cases in the courtroom. Written by two leaders in the field, this book is must reading for memory researchers, psychologists and anyone else interested in understanding why people sometimes remember events that never happened." Elizabeth Loftus of the University of California adds, "This is the definitive work on false memories … everything you might want to know about them and more."