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May 2009 Posts
Is is possible for someone to commit a crime and lie to the point that they actually believe they didn't do it? If so, what happened to their memory of committing the crime? Can that memory be accessed? Listen to the audio blog for more information, and let's hear from you on this interesting topic of believing your own lies!
I think in spite of repeating a lie so often, there is still internal stress over the lie
I do think that it is possible for someone to convince themselves of their own lie. I've never seen it personally happen as far as crimes are concerned, but I have seen it in arguments and discussions I've had with people who, even after pointing out exactly what they had said and/or done, still insist that the words or events did not take place. (It makes you want to record everything at all times as proof!)
I think it begins with justifying your own actions to yourself (the ends justifying the means) and that leads to working your way backwards in your mind until you actually "rescript" everything that was said and done according to how you *wanted* the scenario to play out (regardless of what actually happened.) Plus, I've noticed that many people have just gotten so good at convincing others just by using a particular tone of voice that they have also been able to convince themselves using a similar "internal voice."
Now, I don't know if there is a psychological term for it...it may fall under the term "sociopath," though, for when people who can easily lie without guilt or remorse.
Just my two cents based on my experiences.
A commonly used definition for deception is: “a successful or unsuccessful deliberate attempt, without forewarning, to create in another a belief which the communicator considers to be untrue.”
If we accept that deception is an attempt to create in another a belief which the lie teller considers to be untrue - if they have rehearsed the lie so many times to convince themselves of it - would the knowledge of the lie (its origins) still exist - and therefore would they continue to consider it to be untrue.
Research has shown that interviewees construct their own version reality based on their perception and all the factors that impact on those processes. Therefore memory is a reconstruction not a direct recording of an event (i.e. in a linear or chronological manner as many interviewers would like to think it is).
So over time and through continued rehearsal is it possible to alter your version of reality, and therefore your memory of an event? As an interviewer I have seen many people who saw the same event yet report it differently based purely on their biases and perceptual filters. I have also spoken to people who have convinced themselves of a story (due to trauma or denial) and often they find it difficult to identify where reality stops and fantasy or reconstruction begins.
I think Dr Becky Milne at Uni of Posrtsmouth in the UK could provide some direction on this issue, as it has been shown clumsy questions can interfere with the retrieval of memory - but can you convince yourself an untruth is truth?
From experience I would say yes. But the caveat is that the psychological need for the new reality to be truth would have to be so strong the origins of the deception, and therefore the memory would have to be sufficiently altered so now they no longer consider it to be untrue but unequivocally believe their new version of reality.
I guess this goes full circle - if an attribute of a sociopath is Pathological Lying -where they have no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis this is food for thought. But when we consider sociopaths can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities and convince themselves - i.e. alter their reality, I would agree and have to think it is possible.
Devoid of any outward psychological disorders or the effects of mind altering substances, I don't believe the average person can tell a lie with such great frequency that he has convinced himself that it is true. In using good cognitive techniques, such as having the individual describe the event from a few different perspectives, or even telling the story in reverse order, the consistentcy with regard to detail will more than likely be lacking. One of the basics taught to me when conducting an interview was that "the Devil is in the Details." Sure, someone can sound very convincing, but the conscience is always there and the truth never lies.
Jim Duke - firstname.lastname@example.org
I think it is of course possible. People tend to forget what is painfull. They may subconsiously "delete" what is painful to them. So they can believe their lies about it, this comforts them.
Wes, this is my "No Tweet Response."
I believe it is possible to alter memories. I don't know if they can be altered by simply repeating a lie though. I think it would depend on many factors to include how the event was encoded and stored. I have had conversatoins that have almost faded from memory. (I don't remember the ones that have completely faded ). The conversations that have almost faded were deemed by me, in some way, to be unimportant. It would be difficlut for me to commit a crime and put its relevance at the same level of an unimportant conversation.
As Anthony McLean pointed out, a memory is what is perceived by the person, not a video taped replay of the actual event. Some memories are very accurate, while others, like the old lady in the movie "My Cousin Vinny," are not so sharp.
If the suspects memory of the crime is cloudy to begin with and their sense of right and wrong are different than the norm, it probably wouldn't be too difficult to alter the reality of the event in their own mind.
As I have said in the past, our understanding of the mind an how it works is changing at an ever increasing pace. See the below article that was published in the April of 2008 Discover Magazine entitled "Conquering Your Fears, One Synapse at a Time." The article is about altering strong, long term memories associated with fear and was written by Orli Van Mourik and stated in part : "Unlearning a fear may sound simple, but for years neuroscientists believed such emotion was entrenched, set in stone by fixed neuronal networks in the brain, and thus unaffected by new information. Now a study led by Bong-Kiun Kaang at Seoul National University has altered that view: Every time a long-term memory or an associated emotion, like fear, is retrieved, proteins found in the synapses are degraded, allowing that memory to be updated by incoming information. To demonstrate how the fear-altering process works, Kaang and his colleagues put mice into a box with a wire mesh bottom and shocked them for one second, teaching them to fear the box. Link to Kaang's Study - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18258863?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum
Subsequently, the mice were repeatedly returned to the same box without being shocked. Those mice unlearned their fear in a few days. But when the returning mice received an infusion of a proteasome inhibitor, a molecule that blocks degradation of protein at the synapse, they were unable to update the original memory and could not shake their fear of the box.
The findings suggest a number of therapies for memory impairment as well as outsize obsessions and fears. If researchers can find safe and effective ways to block protein degradation, then they may be able preserve memory in people who suffer from mild cognitve impairments."
If these strong, long term memories could be altered, than why wouldn't we be able to alter a lesser memory?