The Influence Of The Environment On Decisions And Memory

Dr. Michael LaitmanIn the News (Weizmann Institute of Science): (June 30, 2011) — “How easy is it to falsify memory? New research at the Weizmann Institute, Israel, shows that a bit of social pressure may be all that is needed. The study, which appears in the journal Science, reveals a unique pattern of brain activity when false memories are formed – one that hints at a surprising connection between our social selves and memory.”

“The experiment…took place in four stages. In the first, volunteers watched a documentary film in small groups. Three days later, they returned to the lab individually to take a memory test, answering questions about the film. They were also asked how confident they were in their answers.

They were later invited back to the lab to retake the test while being scanned in a functional MRI (fMRI) that revealed their brain activity. This time, the subjects were also given a ‘lifeline’: the supposed answers of the others in their film viewing group (along with social-media-style photos). Planted among these were false answers to questions the volunteers had previously answered correctly and confidently.”

Study results showed that under the influence of “public opinion,” the participants changed their initial answers and “conformed to the group on these ‘planted’ responses, giving incorrect answers nearly 70% of the time.”

“But were they simply conforming to perceived social demands, or had their memory of the film actually undergone a change?

To find out, the researchers invited the subjects back to the lab to take the memory test once again, telling them that the answers they had previously been fed were not those of their fellow film watchers, but random computer generations.

Some of the responses reverted back to the original, correct ones, but close to half remained erroneous, implying that the subjects were relying on false memories implanted in the earlier session.”

Comment: This experiment proves once again how much people depend on the surrounding society. According to Kabbalah, only by choosing the environment can we correct ourselves by becoming like it. Thus, through the choice of the environment, we can change ourselves to the point of similarity to the Creator. Please refer to Baal HaSulam’s article “The Freedom.”

Related Material:
The Choice Of The Environment Determines Our Future
Do Our Choices Originate in Our Brain, or in Our Desire?
Influence Of The Environment

One Comment

  1. I wonder where the concepts of individual integrity and the existential term of living authentically fit into this equation. I have understood that in the latter case there are divergent opinions whether integrity is found by the individual exclusive of the group, and the position you take in the above presentation of finding the correct group. But if you are not certain (are we) of the truth of your perception of memory, how would you be able to determine whether you have made a correct assessment of the choice of friends within social dynamics? Surely I can’t confine my activity to the friends I meet in the Kabbalah seminars? What do I do in my relationship to the people I meet day to day in my ongoing life experiences?

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