Ads Implant Fake Memories In Your Head

A new study says that really lifelike commercials are really good at tricking our brains into thinking that not only did they actually happen, but that they are scenes from our lives.

In the study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, researchers showed two groups of students an ad for a made-up popcorn. One group saw an ad that was mainly text, the other saw one full of bright images. Later, both groups were again mixed up and split into two rooms. One got to eat the popcorn, while the other did not. A week later, all the students were asked whether they remembered sampling the popcorn and how good it was.

Here’s the twist: most of the students who were shown the highly image-filled ad reported that they had eaten the popcorn, and that it was delicious, even if they were were in the group that did not eat the popcorn.

Those who saw the text ad and did not eat the popcorn didn’t report remembering eating the popcorn.

“Viewing the vivid advertisement created a false memory of eating the popcorn, despite the fact that eating the non-existent product would have been impossible,” write the researchers.

I always did wonder what ever happened to my brother Mikey with his fondness for Life cereal…

I Imagine I Experience, I Like: The False Experience Effect [Journal of Consumer Research (Thanks to Deborah!)