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The Illusion of Truth in Concussion – Part One

Implicit memory is a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness.

In daily life, people rely on implicit memory every day through the acts such as how to tie their shoes or ride a bicycle without consciously thinking about these activities.

A real-world manifestation of implicit memory is the ‘illusion of truth’ effect.  Studies show that a person is more likely to believe that a statement is true if it has been heard before – whether or not the statement is actually true.

In one study, subjects rated the validity of plausible sentences every two weeks.  Without letting on, the experimenters snuck in some repeat sentences (both true and false ones) across the testing sessions.  And they found a clear result:  if subjects had heard a sentence in previous weeks, they were more likely to rate it as true, even if they swore they had never heard it before.  This is even true when the investigators tells the subjects the sentences they are about to hear are false. (Begg, I. M., A. Anas, and S. Farinacci. 1992. "Dissociation of processes in belief: Source recollection, statement familiarity, and the illusion of truth." Journal of Experimental Psychology 121: 446-58.

Despite the exposure to a false idea, mere exposure to the idea is enough to boost believability later on.

The illusion-of-truth effect highlights the potential danger for people who are repeatedly exposed to the same religious edicts, political slogans, or assurances that progress in concussion research is proceeding quickly.

There is much room for encouragement, with many new approaches being introduced, as is the case in any market that appears suddenly and urgently.  Evaluating these approaches by professionals requires one dose prior education, two doses of active memory, and three doses of common sense.