False Memories

Have someone slowly read this list out loud. (If you don¹t have anyone handy, read the list to yourself, then  visualize the list with your eyes closed .) Take three minutes to write down all the words you remember.  


 sour           nice          candy                  

honey         sugar        soda                 

bitter          chocolate  good                       

heart           taste          cake                 

tooth           tart            pie     






Okay, now try the same thing again with this list.

mad            wrath           fear                 

happy         hate             fight                  

rage            hatred          temper                 

mean          fury             calm                 

ire              emotion       enrage     



Finally, compare the words that you wrote down to the original two lists.                    







Most people falsely remember the word sweet as being on the first list and the word angry as being on the second list. The words aren’t there,  but they are strongly suggested by the words that are on the list. Memory is associative, and thinking about one thing can get you thinking related  thoughts. Remembering the words candy and honey and sugar and others that are associated with sweetness bring that word sweet to mind so strongly  that it seems like part of the original list.  


In workshops, participants swear “sweet” and “angry” are on the original lists and that the lists have somehow been switched.


How did you do?              


Michael Michalko is a creativity expert and author of the highly-acclaimed best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius), and Creative Thinkering: Putting Your Imagination to Work.



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