Virtual Marketing Can Lead to False Memories


If "underpromise and overdeliver" is a motto you live by in business, you may want to think twice about embracing new technologies that allow virtual interactive product displays. New research shows that virtual interaction with a product could lead to false memories about that product.

The next time you're in the market for a new camera, it might be best to read about the product's capabilities in a brochure rather than taking it for a test-run in an interactive, computer-generated virtual world. New research finds that's because while Web sites offering object interactivity may improve vivid mental images compared to those with simple static pictures and text, those virtual experiences can lead to the creation of fabricated recollections that pose as memories — commonly referred to by psychologists as false positives.

The study by Ann Schlosser, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Washington Business School, showed that virtual experiences may help improve true memories but actually lead most people to think a product — in this case a digital camera — could do more than it was capable of.

"Although learning through interactive experiences with a product is vivid and can enhance knowledge, it can create an illusory sense of competence," Schlosser said.

If you are interested in false memory formation, I encourage you to read up on the work of Elizabeth Loftus. I heard her speak a couple of years ago, and her work is fascinating. Also check out my old posts about memory morphing and after the fact advertising and false memories.

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  • I have read a lot about false memmories and it is a little scary to think how your mind can play tricks on you.