The process of brain-hacking in five easy steps

HOW TO CREATE FALSE MEMORIES

Words: FLORIAN OBKIRCHER
PHOTO: TOM OLDHAM

Research shows you should start with trust, then move on to encouragement. Dr Julia Shaw explains the process of brain-hacking in five easy steps… 

1 RUMMAGE AROUND IN THE PAST

Find out what you can about the person in whom you want to plant a false memory. Ask relatives for details of the person’s past, such as the name of their best childhood friend, a shop near the house where they grew up, or what their favourite restaurant used to be. The more details you have, the better. 

2 SPEAK TO THE PERSON

Confront the person with the memory you want to plant. Present it as fact; as a secret that their parents have entrusted you with, like, “You stole things when you were a kid, didn’t you?”

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3 FOSTER TRUST 

The person will deny your claim. This is where you roll out all the information you gained from step one. For example: “Your friend ‘X’ told me that after a pizza at your favourite restaurant ‘Y’, you helped yourself to sweets from shop ‘Z’.” Affect to know more than you possibly could, in order to garner the person’s trust. Your aim is to get them to consider that perhaps they can’t remember the incident you claim took place.

julia Shaw

In one study, Dr Shaw managed to convince 70 per cent of her subjects that they had committed a crime in their youth 

4 HELP THEM REMEMBER

Exploit the person’s insecurity by proposing you can assist in their recollection. Embellish the event in a multisensory way. Say what time of year the alleged theft took place, what the shop smelled like and what sweets they stole. The more senses you can trigger in the person’s brain, the truer the false memory will seem.

5 REPEAT AND ENCOURAGE

Go over the event with the person again and again until they start adding details to the account themselves. Give them encouragement: “Well done! Your memory seems to be coming back!” By this stage, the person won’t only believe your story, they’ll falsely take it as a memory of their own. 

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02 2017 The Red Bulletin 

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