Can Hollywood Alter History? How Film Modifies Memory

Movies can influence how we (mis)remember the past.

Source: Can Hollywood Alter History? How Film Modifies Memory

By Alan Castel Ph.D.

Currently, a lot of information is presented to us, to believe or not to believe. With so much talk about alternative truths and fake news, it is more important than ever to decipher what is real and what is imaginary.

Movies provide a rich and engaging form of entertainment and education, as story-telling can also make people more aware of current and past events. Research has shown that people learn very effectively from stories and narratives, engaging our brain in ways that are both pleasurable and incredibly complex [1, 2], so movies (and not just documentary form) are often ways for people to learn about the past. Our imagination is ready for action, and movies can provide a tantalizing twist, often portraying World Wars, the Depression, slavery, the Holocaust, or space exploration. Actors can become incorporated into people’s imagery of the past, such as in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004) starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, and Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln (2012).

The question is, to what degree can misinformation, or slight variations on what actually happened in the past, blend into people’s minds while watching movies? Does this sometimes less-than-accurate perspective then become embedded in memory, and with time, become a new version of the truth? This might be especially so for a younger generation, who do not personally remember the more remote past or did not live through the historical events in question.

As an example, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywoodprovides an engaging story and background for the 1969 events that led to the Sharon Tate Manson-clan murder spree. Living up to its story-book title (“Once Upon A Time…”) (spoiler alert) the movie provides a much different ending, as Sharon Tate never meets her demise in this tale. Most people over the age of 60 know about the Manson-family murders and Sharon Tate.

The movie provides a much less horrific ending for Tate and an alternative tale—complete with Tarantino-style violence (it involves a flame thrower) and using fantasy instead of historical facts. The Manson clan has the tables turned on them. However, in what is a deviation from the truth of what happened 50 years ago, it becomes possible that people (especially young adults) will now know a different version of reality—and may not question the movie’s twist on truth, and end up believing some of the fictitious events in the movie.

Research has shown that presenting people with misinformation—some information or event that is inconsistent with the truth of what happened earlier but is highly believable, can lead to not only some initial confusion, but it can then alter memory [3].  As a result of introducing misinformation in a psychology experiment on the exact topic, people will claim to have been lost in a mall as a child after being told this story had happened to them, or that as a child they met Bugs Bunny at Disneyland to refresh your memory, Bugs is a Warner Bros. character and thus couldn’t be seen at Disneyland) [4].

People are prone to believe stories and what makes sense often without questioning the events that are being suggested. Movies might provide just the right amount of entertaining and (sometimes subtle) misinformation that can lead to memories and history being altered in the process.

Movies provide us with entertainment and fodder for our imagination. They also reference history and make people think about what happened in the past, and what could happen in the future (such as the memorable Back to the Future trilogy). Presenting tales and alternative ending in the context of a real event can make people think what could have happened if only a few things were different—but these variations on the truth can also lead to some implanted memories for people who only have a vague understanding of the past.

In the context of persuasion and social psychology, the “sleeper” effect can lead people to believe something that they earlier didn’t believe or agree with, if they then experienced some reference to it and after some time they are even more likely to believe it [5].  Sleeper effects can make people believe things even if initially we are not likely to believe it.

Quentin Tarantino is not intentionally trying to dupe people into thinking things were different 50 years ago, instead he is allowing us to imagine how things could have been different if a few small or seemingly random events happened or different choices were made by certain characters. He took creative license to shed a brighter light (flame-thrower style) on a dark event.  Movies can allow the mind to imagine, and it is then up to us to differentiate what we imagine with what actually happened in the past, but sleeper effects can make us reimagine the past in ways that can have profound effects on our later memory, which can be modified each time we visit events from the past [6].  Students may also misremember historical events based on the movies that they were exposed to in classroom learning settings [7], suggesting that Hollywood can alter younger peoples’ perception of past historical events.

Ideally, movies that provide variations of the past will make people research what actually happened, to have a more complete understanding of the events, but it can also lead to some subtle changes in history from the younger viewers’ point of view.



1.    Zacks, J. M. (2015). Flicker: Your Brain on Movies. Oxford University Press, USA.

2.    Furman, O., Dorfman, N., Hasson, U., Davachi, L., & Dudai, Y. (2007). They saw a movie: Long-term memory for an extended audiovisual narrative. Learning & Memory, 14, 457-467.

3.    Loftus, E. F., & Hoffman, H. G. (1989). Misinformation and memory: The creation of new memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 118, 100-104.

4.    Loftus, E. F. (2005). Planting misinformation in the human mind: A 30-year investigation of the malleability of memory. Learning & Memory, 12, 361-366.

5.    Kumkale, G. T., & Albarracín, D. (2004). The sleeper effect in persuasion: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 143-172.

6.    Chan, J. C., & LaPaglia, J. A. (2013). Impairing existing declarative memory in humans by disrupting reconsolidation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110, 9309-9313.

7.     Butler, A. C., Zaromb, F. M., Lyle, K. B., & Roediger III, H. L. (2009). Using popular films to enhance classroom learning: The good, the bad, and the interesting. Psychological Science, 20, 1161-1168.



7 Essential Psychological Truths About Ghosting


Why “ghosting” hurts so much, why people do it, and how you can get over it.

Source: 7 Essential Psychological Truths About Ghosting

By Loren Soeiro, Ph.D. ABPP

Ghosting,” which has been in the common parlance for the past five or six years, was once known as the “slow fade.” It blew up in the popular press (including the New York Times) around mid-2015. For those who’ve never heard it before — and I can’t imagine there are many who haven’t — it means suddenly discontinuing all contact with another person to end a relationship. Ghosting can be failing to respond to a text exchange with someone you’ve never met, cutting off contact with someone you’ve dated a few times, or even refusing to return someone’s calls after a sexual involvement. If you’re dating, it can happen to you at any time, no matter how much investment you’ve placed in a potential partner.

A patient of mine, for instance, makes ghosting a regular practice, saying she just loses interest in the people she dates after they’ve had sex. To her, “ghosting” is a practical response to this problem. She has no other personal or professional overlap with the people she dates, and their friends don’t know hers, so when she stops responding to their texts, she knows there will be no consequences. Although my patient does feel guilty, she doesn’t see it as morally wrong, and she definitely doesn’t want the alternative — struggling through so many messy conversations! To my patient, ending communication suddenly is actually an elegant solution: The people she’s been dating can infer from her lack of contact that she’s no longer interested.

Her reasoning may strike many of today’s young adults as familiar. It’s altogether too easy to stop chatting with someone who can only contact you through your cell phone, which you can quickly set to ignore them. And it’s just as easy to meet someone new: There are hundreds of dating apps currently available — thousands, perhaps, if you count the small ones. With so many apps, each subscriber can find hundreds of people to date at any moment, so it might seem like a waste of time to treat each person with full politeness and courtesy. Online dating is fast-paced; if one option isn’t an immediate hit, you can move on to another immediately. Perhaps ghosters see the people they meet on the apps as if they’re walking profiles, something they can just swipe away if it’s not quite right. Of course, if you’re always looking around for someone just a little better than the person you’re chatting with on Hinge, it’s a good bet that that person is doing the same to you — which could further reduce your likelihood of making a real investment of time or energy.

It also takes courage to admit when we’re wrong, or when we’ve knowingly hurt someone. Ghosting is sometimes referred to as a form of cowardice: the refusal to acknowledge one’s own misconduct. And cognitive dissonance may play a role as well. Our brains naturally focus on information that confirms a preexisting belief about something, even when other evidence indicates that we might be wrong. Ghosters, like my patient, often go through elaborate cognitive gymnastics to convince themselves that what they do is totally fine. In addition, ghosting can also be the result of a particular set of beliefs about dating. Some people think of it as a way of finding the person they’re destined to spend their lives with and see their dating life as a targeted search for the ideal partner. These people don’t believe it’s possible for relationships to grow and change, or for attraction to deepen as time goes by; they do not have a growth mindset about romance. People who see dating this way are more likely to ghost when they decide that the person they’re dating is not 100 percent right for them. (According to the New York Times, the opposite is true as well: People who believe that attraction can grow and change in good ways, and who don’t hold their dates up to a hypothetical ideal, are less likely to abruptly disappear on their partners.)

When the person you like stops returning your texts, the emotional consequences can run from unpleasant to severe. There’s a profound lack of closure to the relationship, an ambiguity that makes it impossible to interpret what went wrong. The social cues present in a traditional breakup — reduction of time spent together, lack of eye contact, a change in the tone of interaction — are disorientingly absent. You may think your partner has begun dating someone else — or, worse, that they’ve finally recognized the things you hate about yourself. Ghosting causes you to question yourself, which can be devastating to your self-esteem. It deprives you of any chance to work through what went wrong in the relationship. In other words, it’s altogether too easy to draw troubling conclusions when you’ve been ghosted. Some even see it as similar to the silent treatment, which has been described as a form of emotional cruelty.

Ghosting is even more hurtful to people who have low self-esteem in the first place. If what one person believed was a substantial relationship ends suddenly — without even the effort it would take to have a traditional breakup — the results can even produce a traumatic reaction. In psychological studies, social rejection has even been found to activate the same neurological pathways as physical pain. People with low self-esteem also tend to release less internally generated opioids into the brain after rejection, as compared to those with higher self-esteem. In other words, low self-esteem means less ability to tolerate the pain of being forsaken or abandoned.

So ghosting is, by and large, not a great way to treat people you respect. It’s passive-aggressive, it’s self-protective at the expense of other people’s feelings, and it’s hard to stop: People who are ghosted become more likely to do the same to someone else. If you don’t like the experience, perhaps you should try to counter this trend and to work against a disposable, low-investment dating culture. There’s nothing easy about explaining to someone why you aren’t interested in them romantically, but even a brief explanation is much, much better than none at all. Closing a relationship openly is good for you, too: Disclosing your feelings can lower your blood pressure and reduce your subjective experience of stress. “I had a fun time,” you might say, “but I don’t think this is going to go in a romantic direction for me.” Or “I don’t think we’re really right for each other, although it’s been good to get to know you this week.” Even that much can help the other person close your chapter and move on. (Be careful about saying you’re sorry, unless you believe you have done something wrong; otherwise, “sorry” strikes a false note, or may even prolong someone’s emotional connection with you.)

And if you are hurting from having been ghosted? Remember that the message you’ve received is more about the other person than it is about you. Someone who ghosts you is declaring that they aren’t ready to treat you like an adult or to be honest about their feelings in anything approaching a delicate situation. It’s a clear sign that they are relying on primitive coping mechanisms — like avoidance and denial — and is not able to have a mature relationship with you at this time. Don’t bother reaching out to them again once you’ve gotten this message, either; if you believe the anecdotal evidence, asking people why they’ve ghosted you may even cause them to ghost you again. If your self-esteem has been damaged by the way someone else ended a relationship, don’t sacrifice any more of it by trying to communicate with someone who cannot do so in a mature way. You’ll do better to spend your time with courteous, kind people, and your ghoster has just identified himself, or herself, as someone who is neither.


Hosie, R. (2018, August).  I tracked down all the men who’ve ghosted me and this is what happened.  Retrieved from

Kim, J.  (2015, July).  The strange psychology of ghosting.  Retrieved from

Leary, M. R.,Haupt, A. L., Strausser, K. S., & Chokel, J. T. 1998. Calibrating the sociometer: The relationship between interpersonal appraisals and state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, p.1290-1299.

Popescu, A. (2019, January).  Why people ghost and how to get over it.  Retrieved from

Priebe, H. (2019, February).  Why good people ghost: How our current dating culture necessitates dishonesty.  Retrieved from

Samakow, J.  (2017, December).  Ghosting: The 21st-century dating problem everyone talks about, but no one knows how to deal with.  Retrieved from

Vilhauer, J. (2015, November).  This is why ghosting hurts so much. Retrieved from

Williams, C., Richardson, D. Hammock, G., Janit, S. 2012. Perceptions of physical and psychological aggression in close relationships: A review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 17, (6), p. 489–494.


Loren Soeiro, Ph.D., ABPP, is a psychologist in private practice in New York City, specializing in helping people find success, fulfillment, and peace in their relationships and their work.

Nir Eyal says distraction doesn’t start with technology—it starts with us

Nir Eyal spent the best part of a decade working in the depths of the technology industry, watching as designers at tech giants subtly tweaked their products in order to manipulate the psychology of their users and modify their behavior.

Source: Nir Eyal says distraction doesn’t start with technology—it starts with us


We use these devices as psychological pacifiers as we are looking for an escape from uncomfortable sensations. And if we don’t deal with that fact, we will always find distraction somewhere.

We can blame the proximal causes like technology all day long, but if we fail to realize we are doing things against our better interest because they are helping us escape from discomfort, we will always be distracted by one thing or another.

Cal Newport on finding focus in the age of distraction

Source: Cal Newport on finding focus in the age of distraction


In knowledge work, we don’t quite have the right management structures in place so there’s an implicit reward for the shallow because it’s visible.

Once people started looking at [social media] critically, it was like the floodgates opened.

Everyone has read the same article about turning off notifications. Everyone has read the same article about doing a digital Shabbat once a week and it doesn’t seem to be working.

The Working World: France gave workers the right to disconnect—but is it helping?

Source: The Working World: France gave workers the right to disconnect—but is it helping?


Some days seem like an endless stream of pings from the minute you wake ‘til the minute you pass out with your phone in your hand.

“In France, the economic crisis of 2007 reinforced the pressure on workers. This resulted in less employment and more work for those with a job.”—Héloïse Boungnasith

One year after its implementation, some question whether the law is too vague to be effective.

To keep from crossing the line, managers are striving to be extra clear about what needs an immediate response.

“More often than not, when you work for an international company and you work across time zones, you’re still compelled to work beyond 6:00 pm.”—Micha Sprinz

Is Social Media Bad for You?

Research links excessive Facebook or Instagram use to depression and loneliness.

Source: Is Social Media Bad for You?

By  Loren Soeiro, Ph.D. ABPP

At any given moment, something like 40 percent of the world’s population—up to three billion people—are using Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or another social media app or website. Most people spend an average of two hours a day on these platforms: sharing photos, commenting on those of others, tweeting their opinions, or simply checking in on what the people in their networks are doing.

And yet, it’s become something of a truism that too-frequent social media use is bad for one’s health. No less of a social media darling than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose upstart political campaign was buoyed by Facebook, has come out against the network, calling it a “public health risk.” Forget about the instances of rampant harassment on Twitter; for anecdotal data on the downside of social media, ask almost any Instagram user whether he or she has ever experienced FOMO—fear of missing out—after viewing the extravagant photos posted by a random acquaintance. Can we generalize from FOMO? Can social media really be bad for your psychological health?

First off, the use of social media has been shown to correlate with loneliness, with heavy users being twice as likely to report social isolation. On the other hand, even if these users aren’t physically or emotionally separated from the important people in their lives, they may still feel that way: More time spent on the most commonly used social networks correlates to higher feelings of loneliness and isolation. Studies have also shown that higher social media use is associated with higher anxiety. It’s important to note that these studies do not prove causation: It’s possible that higher social media use is caused by loneliness and anxiety, and not the other way around.

Also, the ability to feel good about oneself—to have healthy self-esteem—may be compromised by social media use. Survey studies have suggestedthat Facebook use leaves over 60 percent of users feeling inadequate. A 2012 survey, billed as “Sweden’s largest Facebook study,” found an inverse correlation between Facebook use and self-confidence among female users, and suggested that Facebook use is associated with reduced happiness for women. In some studies, it looks as though some women often compare themselves to others on Facebook, and that they often believe that these people are more attractive. This affects their body image, chips away at their self-esteem, and contributes to weighing them down emotionally.

Generally speaking, Facebook provokes an awful lot of negative self-comparison just like this—that is, comparing oneself to others and deciding that their lives must be happier or better than yours. The problem is, even if you judge your life to be the better one, you’re still not likely to feel happy about this, because any kind of self-comparison has a negative effect on one’s moods. And if you feel some envy while you’re scrolling through your friends’ photos, you may be picking up on a real link between social media use and depressed mood. Feelings of envy may be the mediating link between Facebook use and depression: In studies that manage to control for envy by eliminating it as a factor, Facebook use doesn’t correlate with depression in the same way.

The connection between social media use and clinical depression, broadly speaking, is real. Even brief Facebook use can make people feel bad, as a recent Austrian study has shown: Just checking out your feed for 20 minutes—rather than randomly browsing the internet—instigates sad or depressing feelings. (I unscientifically tested this effect while writing this article, and sure enough, it worked.)

Some evidence suggests the more time you spend on social media, the worse you’ll feel: The persons who use social media platforms most often have been shown to be three times as likely to harbor feelings of depression and anxiety. Its users tend to report feeling worse about themselves from one minute to the next, and increased Facebook use even correlates with reports of reduced life satisfaction overall.

So consider taking a break from social media. You won’t even have to quit entirely; studies show that just avoiding Facebook for a short time can provide a significant boost to a person’s sense of well-being.

If you’ve been feeling depressed lately, be aware that limiting one’s social media use to 30 minutes a day may significantly improve mood after three weeks. Taking time away from social media is likely to make you feel less lonely and less depressed. It should cut down on feelings of FOMO and unhealthy envy, and can reinvigorate the self-affirming belief that your own life is as worthy and enjoyable as the lives of others—no matter how photogenic they are.

(Author’s note: If you are aware of feeling seriously depressed or suicidal, please consider seeking immediate professional help.)


Brown, J. (2018, January 5).  Is social media bad for you? The evidence and the unknowns.  Retrieved from

Gothenburg Research Institute.  (2012).  Sweden’s largest facebook study.  Retrieved from

Hogue, J. V. & Mills, J.S. (2019). The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in young women. Body Image, 28, pp. 1-5.

Kross E., et al. (2013) Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults. PLOS ONE 8(8): e69841.

Kuss, D. J. & Griffiths, M. D.  (2011).  Online Social Networking and Addiction—A Review of the Psychological Literature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(9), pp. 3528-3552

Mai-Ly, N. et al. (2014). Seeing Everyone Else’s Highlight Reels: How Facebook Usage is Linked to Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: 33(8) pp. 701-731.

Mander, J. (2017, May 16).  Daily Time Spent on Social Networks Rises to Over 2 Hours.  Retrieved from

Meikle, J.  (2012, February 3).  Twitter is harder to resist than cigarettes and alcohol, study finds. Retrieved from

Mendoza, M.  (2014, July 26).  Social media make people feel inadequate, jealous: survey.  Retrieved from

Morris, C.  (2019, April 15).  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Quitting Facebook.  Retrieved from

Primack, B. A. (2017). Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(1), pp. 1-8.

Reed P., et al. (2017) Differential physiological changes following internet exposure in higher and lower problematic internet users. PLOS ONE 12(5): e0178480

Sagioglu, C. & Greitemeyer, T.  (2014).  Facebook’s emotional consequences: Why Facebook causes a decrease in mood and why people still use it.  Computers in Human Behavior, 35, pp. 359-363.

Tandoc, E. C, Ferrucci, P., & Duffy, M. (2015).  Facebook use, envy, and depression among college students: Is facebooking depressing?  Computers in Human Behavior, 43, pp. 139-146

Tromholt, M. (2016). The facebook experiment: quitting Facebook leads to higher levels of well-being. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 19 (11), 661-666.

Walton, A. G. (2018, November 16).  New research shows just how bad social media can be for mental health.  Retrieved from

Loren Soeiro, Ph.D., ABPP, is a psychologist in private practice in New York City, specializing in helping people find success, fulfillment, and peace in their relationships and their work.

The 6 Most Passive-Aggressive Email Phrases You Use Without Thinking, According to a Recent Study


An ounce of prevention will keep you from sending the wrong message when you hit ‘Send.’

Source: The 6 Most Passive-Aggressive Email Phrases You Use Without Thinking, According to a Recent Study

By Scott Mautz  Keynote speaker and author, ‘Find the Fire’ and ‘Make It Matter’

Ahh, the art of the email. I’ve always found it to be a terrible medium for communicating--so much can be misconstrued from an unintentionally curt sentence, a light-hearted capitalization–heck, even an emoji that doesn’t convey your mojo the way you meant.

These are the three biggest problems we create for ourselves with email:

  1. We don’t communicate enough to get the point across (the biggest problem with communication in general is the illusion that it has actually taken place)
  2. We’re not clear enough with the communication
  3. Our communication is taken the wrong way (with irritation or offense)

This last one most often happens when we use terms in email that are, in reality, seen as passive-aggressive by the recipient. A recent 1,000-person study by the email platform GetResponse revealed the top 6 phrases perceived as the most passive-aggressive by the receiver.

I’ll reveal them from the least offensive to the most offensive. You can decide to use this information to help you avoid coming across as passively aggressive, or the opposite, depending on your mood.

6. “Going forward I’d prefer…”

Guess what? Going forward the person who reads this line would prefer you not use it again. The “going forward” part is super passive aggressive because it assumes that what happened in the past didn’t work. The reader reads, “Look, what happened in the past is the past, but you can, and will, correct it in the future.” It’s assumptive and dismissive. Even the “I’d prefer” part is weak; it’s language someone uses when they’re beating around the bush on something.

An alternative (and, again, all alternatives that follow are based on the assumption you actually don’t want to come across passive-aggressive, but if that really is your intent, fire away): The alternative here is a good ol’ fashioned face-to-face conversation. When it comes to behavior changes that need to happen, don’t do it over email. Asking change of someone involves emotions, which are always better handled in person.

5. “According to my records…”

Ugh–so formal and uptight sounding. Is this a cross-examination or an email?

An alternative: “I honestly could have this wrong, but from what I think I know…,” or, “The way I see it is…” Fellow columnist Carmine Gallo wrote a great piece on how Tim Cook uses the power of these 5 words, “The way I see it…”

4. “Any updates on this?”

When I read this, I can’t help but picture the sender standing there by my cubicle, peering over the top of it with arms crossed, feet tapping, and a resting jerk face painted on. Try this test: Say “Any updates on this?” out loud to yourself without sounding snippy. Impossible.

An alternative: “I’m guessing you’re swamped–so, sorry to bug you, but what’s the latest on… It would help to know because…” Being brief in email is key so I’m not preaching verbosity here, but this one requires a bit more couching.

3. “Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood.”

What you’re really saying here is “We both know you’ve got this wrong.” This one is the most disingenuous of the lot because the recipient knows that you do not think you have it wrong in any way, shape, or form.

An alternative: If you actually do suspect you got something wrong, pick up the phone for this one. Misunderstandings tend to get more tangled when not ironed out in person. But if you do use email, consider, “I honestly could have this wrong, but…”

2. “Just a friendly reminder…”

It’s not friendly. You know it and I know it.

An alternative: “I honestly hate when people bug me about something, but I’m forced to be ‘that guy/girl’ here in reminding you that… because…”

1. “As per my last email…”

You may as well say, “You obviously didn’t read my last email, so let me try again, dummy.” This one is just plain rude and smacks of the assumption that the recipient has nothing better to do than to sit around waiting for your email to flow into their inbox like gorgeous salmon swimming upstream.

An alternative: “If you don’t mind my reinforcing a point I made before, only because it’s so important…”

We all get enough emails. No one wants more than they need, nor do they want them peppered with what more or less amounts to sass. You can still get your point across by using alternatives.

So, before you hit send, think of the message you’re sending.