The work of American psychologist professor Elizabeth Loftus has been controversial but enlightening. Her work on the misinformation effect and false memories is what she is famous for, particularly her uncovering of false memories of child-abuse implanted by so-called therapists.
This has been an extremely controversial area as anyone may soon discover by following the above links, yet her work fits very well with Skinner's behavioural psychology. Our memories are fragile as Sam Vega observed in a comment on an earlier post.
Maybe we see a car pass by while walking down the street, a trivial event we may soon forget, but if it is suggested to us that the car was blue, then we are likely to remember it as blue, even if it was actually white. Of course this is less likely if there was some reason to take note of the car, such as it being unusual in some way.
Memories are not fixed records, but aspects of an overall picture which will be modified as we adjust the new circumstances. It may well be that memories are supposed to be mutable, their mutability being a key element of social cohesion. In part, it's how we reach agreement.
One of Elizabeth Loftus' most famous cases was that of George Franklin who in 1990 was suddenly accused by his daughter Eileen of raping and murdering her best friend twenty years earlier. Loftus was brought by the defence to testify on Franklin's behalf, specifically on the unreliability of so-called repressed memories reported by his daughter.
However, the jury didn't accept Franklin's defence and he was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Fortunately for Franklin the verdict was overturned on appeal.
The booklet experiment.
This experience led Loftus to design experiments where she would implant false memories under controlled conditions. She recruited twenty four subjects and with the help of each subject's family members designed a small journal with four written accounts of past incidents in family life, one of which was false.
The subjects were then given their own family journal and asked to elaborate on the four incidents from their own memories. If they had no memory of the incident, they were instructed to write I don't remember this.
What Loftus found was that the false incidents were "remembered" with remarkable clarity and in great detail, subjects going on to elaborate them far beyond what was written in the jounal. One subject (shown in the above clip) "remembered" being lost in a shopping mall as a small child and wrote out details such as how scared he was and how an old man with glasses had come up to him in the mall.
But none of this ever happened. It was implanted via the journal and the three family incidents which were true. They authenticated the false incident and a repertoire of other memories supplied the detail.