The False Memory Diet: False Memories Alter Food Preferences

  • Daniel M. Bernstein
  • Nicole L. M. Pernat
  • Elizabeth F. Loftus


A century of research has shown that memory is malleable, meaning that it involves reconstruction and is even susceptible to complete fabrication. It could be said that false memories are ubiquitous, sometimes occurring spontaneously and sometimes as a result of external suggestion. Recent research has shown that false memories about having gotten sick from particular foods in childhood can be planted through suggestion and that these false memories can have consequences for people. The false memories can affect what people tell you they want to eat at a party and even how much of a particular food they actually eat. False memories about getting sick may lead people to avoid the food, while false memories of a positive nature can incite people to embrace the food. Similar false memories can be planted about beverages containing alcohol; people can be led to falsely remember these experiences and these false memories affect drinking attitudes and behaviors. Several key issues arise concerning these false food and alcohol memories. For example, who is susceptible to having their memories distorted in this way, and, conversely, who is resistant? What types of foods and beverages are particularly susceptible to false memory formation? Can these techniques be used in practical ways to influence nutritional selection and dieting? Given the obesity problem in Western society, false memory diets might make a significant applied contribution to its solution. We discuss these issues, in addition to ethical concerns.


Food Preference False Memory Experimental Subject Potato Chip White Wine 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Food and beverage preferences Questionnaire



This work was supported by a. 6 Professional Development grant and a Minor Research Grant to D.M.B. from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. We would like to thank Lori Scanlan for help with preparing the figures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel M. Bernstein
    • 1
  • Nicole L. M. Pernat
  • Elizabeth F. Loftus
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyKwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySurreyCanada

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