Our memories are often inaccurate. Ubiquitous sources of false recollection are social pressure and interpersonal influence. This phenomenon, dubbed “memory conformity,” is encountered in a variety of contexts, including social interactions, mass media exposure, and eyewitness testimony. In such settings an individual may change veridical recollections of past events to match a false account provided by others. ~ Israeli cognitive scientist Micah Edelson et al
Memory conformity – adhering to a social story – has 2 forms. Under private conformity, a person’s recollection is genuinely altered via social influence. In contrast, a person acting out of public conformity pretends to comply with the account of others, but inwardly maintains certitude in the original memory.
Peer pressure is powerful. On a trivial matter over 67% of the population readily submit to memory conformity. 40% readily buy into the brainwashing of private conformity. The rest go for the feint of public conformity.
Social influence, such as false propaganda, can deleteriously affect individuals’ memory in political campaigns and commercial advertising, and impede justice by influencing eyewitness testimony. Memory conformity may also serve an adaptive purpose, because social learning is often more efficient and accurate than individual learning. For this reason, humans may be predisposed to trust the judgment of the group, even when it stands in opposition to their own original beliefs. Such influences and their long-term effects may contribute to the extraordinary levels of persistent conformity seen in authoritarian cults and societies. ~ Micah Edelson et al