BBC, 13 December 2012
Doctored images can affect what we eat, how we vote and even our childhood recollections. The question scientists are asking is why there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
The year was a memorable one – looking back at the unforgettable images over the past 12 months, you might think of apocalyptic-looking clouds over Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy, or Mitt Romney’s children mistakenly standing in a line spelling out the word “MONEY”, or even the winning US Powerball lottery ticket that became the most shared picture on Facebook. There’s only one problem. All these images are fake.
It would be fine if we could dismiss these images as a fleeting joke, an amusing but harmless tidbit shared among our friends and followers, if it weren’t for the fact that our minds appear to have a curious but fundamental glitch. People tend to think of their memories as a transcript, a rough history of events from some early age until the very moment they are experiencing. But human memory is far more like a desert mirage than a transcript – as we recall the past we are really just making meaning out of the flickering patterns of sights, smells and sounds we think we remember.