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Back to The enormous costs to society of 'right-wing' political governance

It appears commercial advertising can modify the childhood memories of adults-- even going so far as to completely construct events which never happened at all, in the minds of those tested. This raises the question: Is it ethical for advertisers to purposely change the childhood memories (and effectively the perceived past) of consumers, in order to manipulate their buying behavior?

-- Ads can alter memory claim scientists by Claire Cozens; September 4, 2001; MediaGuardian.co.uk; Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

Research has shown that every person tends to have a different perspective on events and thus a differently formed memory of the same event than others. Most people seem to also modify their memories of events over and over again, perhaps mostly without realizing it, but sometimes consciously as well-- at least where opportunity and perhaps encouragement of same is provided them. Personal expectations or desires also seem to play a prominent role in the reshaping of memories over time.

Making a conscious effort to remember something seems more prone to modifying a given memory than recalling it more spontaneously.

Distortions of memory sometimes occur similarly as to how human myths and legends are thought to have often come about-- the memory of some actual event or intriguing idea becomes exaggerated or expanded upon in some way during recall, and this expansion may happen again and again, whenever the memory is called forth once more.

A phenomena known as 'hindsight bias' may also skew the recall of original events by modifying the remembered certainty or uncertainty regarding certain events, ideas, or details in the past, based on what a witness has learned since regarding that same item (the new learning can involve untruths as easily as truths, thereby opening the way to malevolent manipulation).

A related element indicates that-- where a person possesses little information themselves regarding the subject-- they will come to believe any statement they hear repeated often enough about it, if no disagreement or other information conflicting with the statement is also witnessed.

Thus, control the media, repeating your message over and over, with little or no contradictory material to dilute it, and you have a recipe for mass mind control.

The more often a memory of the past is replayed, the easier it is to change that memory-- perhaps to something else entirely.

In experiments approximately 20% of test subjects developed false childhood memories due to suggestions from scientists, friends, or family members. Some people may be more susceptible to such things than others, for a variety of reasons, including better visualization skills, a desire to conform to the suggestions of others, and/or simply better memory capture of all such ideas they encounter around them.

Some experts argue that while it is easy to create false memories of events a given person will deem plausible in the context of their personal life history, both conscious and unconscious, it may be more difficult to create false memories of events which don't fit that historical context quite as well-- such as false memories of childhood sexual abuse where none actually took place. That is not to say it is impossible-- merely that it would take more effort. This may be related to the idea that a hypnotized person cannot be successfully ordered to do something too far afield of their own conscious convictions and goals-- such as an act of murder might be for most people.

-- Remembrance of Things False By BRUCE BOWER , Science News Online, August 24, 1996, Science News Online, Science Service, Inc.

"the only way you can get a message through to an indifferent populace is to repeat it over and over again"

-- Media are ignoring nation's true concerns

-- Advertising Techniques

One especially strong way to affect human memory and perspectives is to raise anxiety and fear in the subject as you proceed (such as by frequently declaring terror alerts perhaps?).

Long term human memory storage and recall relating to experiences involving fear are unstable, subject to significant alteration every time they are accessed. This actual chemical change in the storage of long term memories every time they are accessed may be what opens the door to modification of such memories by way of suggestion and other means. Entirely false memories could be created via such a mechanism.

-- NYU neuroscientists find long-term memories are surprisingly unstable and impermanent, 16 AUGUST 2000, EurekAlert!, Contact: josh plaut josh.plaut@nyu.edu 212-998-6797 New York University. A related research report is scheduled to appear as "Fear memories require protein synthesis in the amygdala for reconsolidation after retrieval" in the August 17th issue of Nature.

From experiments it appears relatively easy for false memories to take root in the human mind. The powers of anticipation, suggestion, and passion may all be readily utilized to power the mechanism of false memories implantation.

-- MALLEABLE MEMORIES, From Science Frontiers Digest of Scientific Anomalies #111, MAY-JUN 1997 by William R. Corliss, citing Anonymous; "Psychologists Plant 'Illusions of Memory'," Baltimore Sun, February 16, 1997

Once upon a time, you could believe photos and video and audio tapes of certain events-- at least much of the time. Now, those types of items are becoming increasingly suspect themselves.

All the photo retouching and video editing of the past 50 years which could be used to modify existing imagery or create all new and entirely fictional visuals, can now be performed in realtime, on live video feeds, even as they are being captured.

As a result, you can no longer trust your eyes without question any time you are viewing a photo or video presentation of an event.

Such realtime manipulation is being readily embraced by the news and entertainment media-- a fact which seems certain to erode public confidence in the medium. Any image imaginable, of anyone desired doing (or saying) whatever was wanted, can be fixed into viewable form, with little or no indication that the image was a concoction.

It appears likely the power to edit video in realtime for reasons of propaganda or others already exists in places like the military and intelligence agencies of USAmerica, as of mid-2000.

-- Jul/Aug 00: Lying With Pixels By Ivan Amato, Technology Review, July/August 2000

-- At MIT, they can put words in our mouths By Gareth Cook; 5/15/2002; page A1, the Boston Globe

-- Video research at MIT puts words into mouths, with startling results; Silicon Valley

-- Reporters' terminology affects gentrification, scholars assert; 2-Jul-2003; Contact: Andrea Lynn, Humanities & Social Sciences andreal@uiuc.edu 217-333-2177 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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