Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If You Remember Past Lives, You May Just Have a Bad Memory

You may have a memory from a past life. Or, that memory may just be something you learned somewhere else and you can't tell the difference. After all, if you think you recall a past life, you're probably worse than average at remembering what source you learned information from:
Study author Maarten Peters of Maastricht University in the Netherlands tested patients of "reincarnation therapists," who use hypnosis to help their patients remember "past lives," which the clients believe are at the root of their current problems.

Subjects were given a memory test known as the false fame paradigm, in which they were asked to recite a list of unfamiliar names. The next day, they were shown a list that included those names, new names, and the names of famous people. The results: subjects who claimed to have memories of previous lives were more likely than those without such recollections to misidentify more of the previously recited names as belonging to famous people.

. . . .

"Once familiarity of an event is achieved, this can relatively easily be converted into a belief that the event did take place," Peters says. "A next possible step is that individuals interpret their thoughts and fantasies about the fictitious event as real memories."

. . . .

"I think the most important finding here is that these people are highly motivated to seek and endorse some way to explain why they are suffering from psychological distress," [Harvard's Susan] Clancy notes. "There are plenty of people out there who think they might have been abducted by aliens—you'll see, ask 20 of your friends—but they don't go so far as to create false memories."
Link. First the superstitious can't keep different fields of science straight, now people who've lived past lives suffer from CRS? I don't think I even want to be abducted by aliens anymore.

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Image credits:
Three Ventricles of the Brain, from Margarita Philosophica, Gregor Reisch, courtesy BibliOdyssey.