It seems incredible that someone might misremember whether they were in a chopper crash. Ford Vox, a physician who specializes in spinal and brain injuries and has treated many people with memory problems, explains how it could happen:
You may wonder how its possible that Williams tricked himself into such a vivid false memory told in such detail. He did experience some aspects of the events.
Though he wasnt in the Chinook that took a hit, he landed in that forward position with it and spent three days on the ground without communication with NBC or his family. He formed bonds with the servicemen around him. He felt vulnerability and stress during that period.Williams has told his story many times before, and each time he tells it, he is retrieving it.
Errors happen during memory retrieval all the time, just as errors happen in cell division; biology isn’t computer science. Furthermore, he is subtly modifying his memory with his every retelling. Revisions occur as the memory is re-encoded based on whats going on at the time he tells the story. Circumstances like a gabby, friendly free-wheeling interview with David Letterman.The emotions he’s feeling when he’s retelling the story also infect the original memory. The NBC videos of the downed Chinook that hes viewed repeatedly are dredged up as well.
Clever studies tell us just how powerfully words and images can manipulate memory to the point of inserting false memories. In one, researchers interviewed the parents of their experimental subjects, all college students, and collected true stories about events each of the studies had experienced.After presenting these true stories mixed with false ones, researchers were able to trick 25% of the perfectly healthy students into thinking they had experienced one of the false stories just by having had them imagine any connections they might have to what they couldn’t remember.
Brian Williams had plenty of connection to the downed helicopter. He was trapped right there for several days.
In another study demonstrating the disturbing ease with which the human mind can create a false memory, researchers doctored a photograph to show adult subjects as children in a hot air balloon, and 50% of the adults ultimately believed they really took the balloon ride. Mr. Williams has been saturated in photos and video of the downed Chinook for many years now.
via Cut Brian Williams a break on Iraq claim – CNN.com.