Sleep Deprivation and False Memories

Neurophilosophy, a psychology blog I’ve followed for some time, posted about recent research that ought to heighten concerns that our nations policy of torturing detainees doesn’t actually do anything to get us valuable information.  The research suggests that the production of false memories may become more common when subjects are sleep deprived.  Sleep deprivation is, of course, officially one of the least questionable aspects of our treatment of detainees–waterboarding and stress positions receive the greatest scrutiny.

I do admit, based on his summary, I’m not 100% convinced it would be relevant to the treatment of detainees.  The task in the experiment involved discriminating between words with similar meanings, some of which had been part of a presented stimulus, and some which hadn’t.  One wonders whether that sort of memory failure extends to contaminating the sort of information that we’d look for from terrorists.  Nonetheless, it’s not as if this effect couldn’t lead to false memories, and there’s already reason to worry about any information we do get.


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