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9. Remembering: Hacks 81–92 > 83. Fake Familiarity

Fake Familiarity

Hack memory to make people feel they’ve seen something before.

The memory system is chockablock with hacks. The information that our environment constantly provides exceeds any viable storage capacity, so memory employs a variety of methods that allow it to be choosy. One memory experience we all know is the feeling of familiarity for previously seen things or people. The process beneath it is quick and feels automatic, with an almost perceptual flavor. As we will see, that is not too far from the truth. However, there are hidden layers that contribute to this process, and these can be revealed by the use of a memory illusion.

In Action

Try this teasing task, using stimuli from Whittlesea and Williams’ 1998 study. 1 Or better yet find a volunteer to tax instead. Look at the words in Table 9-1, one at a time (around 2–3 seconds a word), in both columns. Then take a breather for a minute or two.


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