Suggestive Memory

4th April 2019. Reading Time: 7 minutes Stuff paranormal investigators need to know, General. 746 page views. 1 comments.

While we love investigating with our friends and with groups of people, can we be too influenced by our peers? Can a person 'implant' a memory into someone else? How does this affect how we recall our investigations?

One of the things I have always said I have loved about investigating the paranormal is the social aspect. When you are either stuck at home with kids or at a computer desk all week, it is nice to have some social interaction on the weekends. One of the things that I enjoy about investigating is that it completely takes away your worries for a couple of hours at least. When you are in the moment with your people investigating the paranormal, you aren't thinking about the project due first thing Monday morning, you aren't worried about how you are going to pay your bills, you are just focused on the job at hand. It doesn't hurt when there is a little fun thrown in there too because we can't be 100% serious all the time. I love controls, I love collecting data, I love experiments and I like to have a purpose to what I am doing ... but I also like to have a laugh. In fact when I find there is a casual fun environment, people get along better and there is more positive energy floating around and things just kind of happen. Most of the time, we are investigating in groups of people. While fun and helpful, it can also work against us.

We as humans are kind of our own worst enemy when it comes to investigating the paranormal. The psychology of the human brain alone is enough for skeptics to argue that it's quite literally all in our heads. The field has a very wide scale on what we think is happening and we know that the type of person we are investigating with will dictate the general tone of the evening. If you are investigating with people who consider themselves highly sensitive to the paranormal compared to investigating with skeptics, the night will go completely differently. While we try our best to be aware of these influencing factors, we are not completely immune. While we may try our best to be level headed during the investigation itself, what about how we recall our experiences after the fact?

What is suggestive memory

I have written previously about false memories and how easy it is for someone to remember something that never happened just because of a suggestion. You can check out the article here: False Memories. While false memories are quite an innocent mistake where you brain has deceived you, a suggestive memory can be quite intentional. A person can actually influence someone by asking certain questions to trigger their brain to 'remember' a memory that hasn't actually occurred. Psychologists have done a lot of research in this area as it is believed that these suggestive memories can often make a person who is seeking therapy for example recall traumatic events such as abuse that never in fact occurred. The line of question asked by the therapist can easily lead a patient especially one experiencing anxiety or depression down this path. This is why it is felt this research is necessary so that therapists in particular can understand just how important the questions they are asking someone during a session really are.

Suggestive memory and the paranormal

While we try to be aware during a paranormal investigation not to be influenced by those around us, what about after the investigation? Usually people will gather and have a chat or even days, weeks and months later talk about particular experiences that may have happened on that night. We have to be careful to be aware not only at the time of the investigation, but afterwards as well. Someone could start asking you questions about the night. Unintentionally, the questions that they ask you could actually make you remember things completely differently to how it actually happened. You look at a lot of paranormal claims particularly when it comes to things like alien abduction. Under hypnosis, they remember that they were taken on board a ship etc. Is this a regressed memory that they were made to forget or were the right questions asked causing them to remember an event that didn't happen?

Psychic Readings and Suggestive Memory

Psychic mediums can be a controversial topic when it comes to the paranormal. I do very much believe that some people have some abilities that we don't understand and there are some that I believe are the real deal. I have seen some things that really make me scratch my head. I rarely engage in readings and when I do, I try to be as stone face as possible and they really have to tell me something that nobody else could possibly know for me to be impressed. It has happened on rare occasions so I do believe that there are some really genuine people out there. As much as I would love to say that everyone is genuine with good intentions, there are some charlatans out there. It is a sad reality. There are people that deliberately deceive others. It has been happening for centuries and sadly it is a part of human nature. There will also be those who will take advantage of a situation. Some readers are very good at what we call cold reading a person. Based on the questions they ask a person and the responses they are given, they sometimes are able to put a story together. It is general enough that the person having the reading is able to make some sort of connection to their life. It would be very easy for them to make you remember something that didn't happen just by asking you a few questions. I know in the past I have been told 'it wont make sense now but it will later'. You walk away trying to piece together what they have told you for it to make sense. Could our brain make it fit with a suggestive memory that never actually occurred? Think of it as them planting a seed and allowing it to grow. Even when they are a genuine person with honest intentions to just give you a great reading based on what they are picking up (as they are out there), they can still make you remember something that didn't happen. They may not mean for it to happen, but if a question is asked suggestively enough it is possible.

If we can't trust our brains what/who can we trust?

We hold so much power over another person, just with our words. We know it is easy to get caught up in the excitement or to follow the opinion of our peers. If we can't trust our own brains, what or who can we can trust?
Start with video. By filming a paranormal investigation, you have a completely unbiased view of what happened. It is not a perception, it is the reality. It is what actually happened. When you need to recollect information about an investigation, refer to your video. Video shouldn't be thought of as a tool to capture 'apparitions or shadow people etc'. It should be used as a tool to give you an unbiased account of what really happened during an investigation. It will allow you to potentially debunk situations or even confirm certain scenarios. It really is one of the most important pieces of equipment you can have. As well as a video, you should always have a paper and pen. As you are doing an investigation, make notes while they are fresh in your head. People underestimate the power of a written word. If you have a journal with you, write down your observations as the investigation unfolds. Don't just write down what has happened in terms of paranormal activity. Write down what the weather was like. Was it cold or hot? How were people reacting? Were there sensitive people or skeptical people? Was someone else influencing the group? Were the group getting caught up in the emotions of another person? Did there seem to be a person 'leading' the investigation? All of this information should be recorded as it is all these small details that are often forgotten and can end up being the most important. We are our own worst enemy sometimes just due to psychology alone.

We know because we are still here that is not necessarily 'all in our heads'. We are still here because we know there is something out there. We don't know what it is or where it is coming from, that is why we are out there looking. If we can make good notes and video references where we can, it will help us immensely along the way. Always be aware of the influence another person can have and never allow a person to influence how you think or feel. Take control of your thoughts, they are yours and yours alone.

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  • Joseph Kapusta 5 years ago

    Excellent article. While attending a talk by a world famous abductee with the initials 'TW' and doing extensive research before and after, the preponderance of objective evidence really did not point to an actual abduction. The explanations, speeches, discussion, etc. that followed & continued years after were too one-sided, never offering the 'devils advocate' response. That left me with the one factual and possibly only verifiable part associated with the whole incident, that is, the passing of polygraph tests. At first, I struggled with this, allowing doubt upon my conclusions to that point however I stuck with my research into the brain just as your article touches upon. It helped in making my conclusion. I found that the polygraph tests were suspect not in themselves or the subject of the tests, but rather they were marred in the pre-cognition of the testers. I would also like to state that the subconscious brain will attempt to introduce to a conscious situation, a memory of something unrelated to the situation, but even more interestingly enough, we are suceptible, over time, to accept that as a reality. Once implanted as a reality, our amazing brains are like an artist putting finishing touches and little additions to the quasi-reality. The story, if told enough will begin to slightly evolve and produce at times, contradictions to the original. These contradictions are what, in my judgement and opinion, caused me to decide this famous abduction was not what it was claimed to be.