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The Social-Engineer Podcast

Ep. 213 - The Doctor Is In Series - Everything You Remember is False

Mon Jun 05 2023
Social EngineeringMemory DistortionsEyewitness Testimony


The episode discusses the topics of social engineering, memory distortions, and the complexity of memory. It explores the tendency to maintain a positive self-view, the influence of belief systems on memory formation, and the inaccuracy of eyewitness testimony. The chapter also delves into the malleability of memory, the impact of emotions on recall, and the importance of understanding the limitations of memory. Key insights include the recognition that memories are not always accurate, the need for empathy in disagreements, and the significance of knowledge in navigating memory complexities.


Memories are not always accurate

It is important to recognize that memories can be distorted and may not always reflect the objective truth.

Empathy in disagreements

Being more lenient with others in arguments and considering that personal memory may not be the sole source of truth.

Moving forward from past experiences

Not letting past experiences dictate future decisions and being open to new perspectives.

Memories are a mix of good and bad

Memories are not all positive or negative, but can be a combination of both.

Importance of understanding memory complexities

Having knowledge about memory distortions and biases can help navigate the complexities of memory.

Acknowledging human flaws

Recognizing that humans are imperfect and prone to memory errors can foster empathy and understanding.

Bringing education to new fields

Expanding discussions on memory distortions to fields where these topics have not been widely explored before.

Upcoming episode on deception detection

A future episode will delve into the controversial topic of deception detection.

Learning to be human lie detectors

The next episode will teach listeners how to detect deception as human lie detectors.


  1. Introduction
  2. Understanding Memory Distortions
  3. Maintaining Positive Self-View
  4. False Memories and Traumatic Events
  5. Repression vs Suppression and Eyewitness Testimony
  6. Inaccuracy of Eyewitness Testimony
  7. The Influence of Belief Systems
  8. The Complexity of Memory
  9. Key Insights


00:02 - 06:45

  • The Social Engineer podcast, the Doctor is in series, episode 213
  • Co-hosted by Chris Hatton Aggie and Dr. Abby Morono
  • Dr. Abby is a behavioral scientist and professor of psychology
  • Social Engineer LLC offers training courses, including a practical application of social engineering course in June
  • Foundational courses are available in July and September
  • An audio course on elicitation is being developed
  • The State of Vishing Report for 2023 is available for free download on the website
  • A Slack channel with over 1500 members is open for discussion on social engineering topics
  • Innocent Lives Foundation is a nonprofit organization working to combat child exploitation online
  • Volunteer opportunities and donations are accepted at
  • Clutch, a rock band, supports ILF and their music can be found at

Understanding Memory Distortions

06:23 - 13:46

  • Company committed to using current scientific understanding and keeping people safe
  • Deleting and banning negative comments from channels
  • False memories are a topic of discussion
  • Memory processes are prone to errors and distortions
  • Eyewitness testimony is unreliable due to memory distortions
  • Memory reconstruction influenced by knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs
  • Motivation for positive self-view leads to forgetting moral transgressions
  • People with mood disorders may have different self-perceptions

Maintaining Positive Self-View

13:21 - 21:01

  • People have a natural tendency to maintain a positive self-view and feel good about themselves.
  • Even individuals who are narcissistic have an extreme motivation towards positive self-view.
  • We often recall past moral transgressions as worse than they were to show personal growth.
  • Our memories can be influenced by unconscious drivers that aim to make us feel better about ourselves.
  • When we are in a positive mood, we are even more motivated to maintain it through recalling memories.
  • Memory distortion can occur in various contexts, such as education where students may remember achieving higher grades than they actually did.
  • Having a distorted reality based on memory can lead to inaccurate choices and irrational behavior.
  • In the medical context, biased recall of health risk categories can result in not taking health risks seriously enough and making damaging choices.

False Memories and Traumatic Events

20:32 - 27:18

  • Believing you are healthy based on a paper or test results can lead to making bad health choices.
  • People tend to misremember health information if it contradicts their self-concept or values.
  • Memories are only formed if they are encoded, so not paying attention can result in false memories.
  • Studies have shown that false memories can be implanted, such as being lost in a shopping center or being abducted by a UFO.
  • Therapists claiming to help recall repressed memories often end up creating false memories instead.
  • Repression of traumatic events is not possible, but suppression is when we consciously put them out of sight.

Repression vs Suppression and Eyewitness Testimony

26:52 - 33:45

  • Repression and suppression are different forms of dealing with traumatic memories.
  • Repression involves completely pushing the memory out of consciousness, while suppression is putting it out of sight but still having it affect us in minor ways.
  • Traumas and past events can still unconsciously affect us because they are suppressed.
  • We can actively suppress memories by purposefully stopping retrieval and shutting down certain regions of our brain.
  • Repression doesn't hold up to scientific scrutiny and attempting to retrieve repressed memories can lead to implanting false memories.
  • Eyewitness testimony can be influenced by leading questions, causing people to remember details that were not actually present in the original scene.
  • People have been shown to identify a familiar person from an irrelevant scene as the perpetrator in a crime, demonstrating how memory can be altered or influenced.

Inaccuracy of Eyewitness Testimony

33:27 - 40:18

  • False eyewitness testimony is the reason for 75% of cases where suspects were exonerated due to DNA evidence.
  • Eyewitness testimony is still used in the judicial system despite its high rate of inaccuracy.
  • Emotion massively affects memory, with an inverted U effect where too low or too high emotion leads to inaccurate recall.
  • Neutral memories are more likely to be accurate.
  • High emotions can lead to memory distortion and the implantation of current emotions into past memories.
  • People's memory of events like 9/11 can be influenced by others' memories and discussions about the event.

The Influence of Belief Systems

39:56 - 47:04

  • People can become defensive over their emotional memories.
  • False memories can be a sensitive topic for some individuals.
  • It may not always be best to correct someone's false memory, especially if it is cherished and loved.
  • Correcting memories depends on the importance of the memory and its impact on one's life.
  • Challenging other people's memories raises the question of how accurate our own memories are.
  • Our lives are not reality shows with constant documentation, so there may be no direct evidence to support or refute a memory.
  • Belief systems play a significant role in memory formation and retention.
  • We tend to seek information that confirms our beliefs and disregard information that contradicts them.
  • False memories can be created that align with our belief systems, often unconsciously.
  • Social media can contribute to reinforcing our worldview by filtering out opposing information.
  • Science strives for objectivity and does not care about personal beliefs or desires.
  • Even scientists are susceptible to bias and cherry-picking studies in their research papers.

The Complexity of Memory

46:48 - 53:55

  • Scientists are not immune to cherry-picking studies and evidence to maintain their beliefs or views.
  • Humans have a tendency to want to maintain a positive self-view and belief system, leading to creating new memories, cherry-picking information, or forgetting inconsistent things.
  • The brain's malleability allows us to learn and adapt even as we age.
  • Fully accurate memories are not possible, but being aware of this fact can help us seek better understanding and encode information more effectively.
  • When relying on important information, it is advisable not to solely rely on someone else's memory as evidence.
  • Seeking evidence to confirm the accuracy of memories may not be productive if it only reinforces negative memories or victimization.
  • Our thoughts and self-talk have a significant impact on our biology and neurology.
  • It is important to understand that controlling thoughts may be more challenging for individuals with emotional disorders.
  • Changing our biology through psychology is possible but requires effort and practice.

Key Insights

53:29 - 58:10

  • Understanding that memories may not be 100% accurate
  • Being more lenient with others in arguments and not solely relying on personal memory
  • Not letting past experiences dictate future decisions
  • Recognizing that memories are not all good or all bad, but can be a mix of both
  • Importance of understanding and knowledge in navigating the complexities of memory
  • Acknowledging our flaws and imperfections as humans
  • Bringing education to fields where these topics haven't been discussed before
  • Upcoming episode on deception detection as a controversial topic
  • Teaching listeners how to be human lie detectors in the next episode