Advertisements Create False Memories

Vivid commercials are incredibly good at tricking the brain's long-term memory center into believing that the scene we just watched on television actually happened. And it happened to us.


What's the Latest Development?

In a new study, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, 100 undergraduates were introduced to a new fictional popcorn product. Some subjects viewed low-imagery text ads, which described the snack's delicious taste. Others watched a high-imagery commercial, in which happy people enjoyed this popcorn in their living room. Some subjects were then given samples of the product, some were not. One week later, many subjects who had seen the image-heavy ad reported having sampled the product when in fact they hadn't. 

What's the Big Idea?

Never mind that we find commercial interruptions annoying, they are affecting how we recall our own lives. "The scientists refer to this as the 'false experience effect,' since the ads are slyly weaving fictional experiences into our very real lives. 'Viewing the vivid advertisement created a false memory of eating the popcorn, despite the fact that eating the non-existent product would have been impossible,' write Priyali Rajagopal and Nicole Montgomery, the lead authors on the paper. 'As a result, consumers need to be vigilant while processing high-imagery advertisements.'"

5 facts you should know about the world’s refugees

Many governments do not report, or misreport, the numbers of refugees who enter their country.

David McNew/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs

Conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations led to a record high of 70.8 million people being displaced by the end of 2018.

Keep reading Show less

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
Strange Maps
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
Keep reading Show less

Bernie Sanders' student debt plan bails out the rich

Bernie Sanders reveals an even bigger plan than Elizabeth Warren, but does it go too far?

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bernie Sanders has released a plan to forgive all the student debt in the country.
  • It is even larger than the plan Elizabeth Warren put forward two months ago.
  • The plan has drawn criticism for forgiving the debt of both the poor and those well off enough to pay their own debt.
Keep reading Show less