Do you actually believe that... you're the real Shadow? Shadow:
No doubt. Rouge:
Even your memories might not be real, you know? Shadow:
Even if my memories are not real, it's still me, Shadow.
Sometimes when Laser-Guided Amnesia
won't cut it, the villains, heroes, or The Men in Black
need to radically alter a subject's very memories
to ensure their Evil Plan
, Epiphany Therapy
(respectively) works flawlessly.
In these cases they implant Fake Memories
, using things like Psychic Powers
, or the week's Applied Phlebotinum
to replace true memories with more convenient false ones.
Of course, this never works as planned.
Like an itch they can't scratch, the character with tampered memories will notice things aren't as they should be and scratch at the false memories like a scab, questioning their "Past"
and searching for the truth.
Or go crazy trying. Occasionally, a hero will leave a Note to Self
or instructions for friends to help. The irony being that the false memories tend to lead the character right back to the people who erased them with enough of an advantage to take them out.
A darker, more sinister version of this trope is when the character in question realizes his memories don't add up, but doesn't know which
set of memories is true. Often self-inflicted, these memories are slowly revealed through dream sequences
, and the experience tends to come with An Aesop
about the frailty of human mind and the subjectivity of memory.
Quite common in video games, probably because amnesiac heroes
are extremely convenient for the format. Occasionally used as part of a more radical attempt at making someone into an Unperson
Related tropes include Manchurian Agent
, Memory Gambit
, Amnesiac Dissonance
, and Tomato in the Mirror
. Compare Exposition Beam
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Everybody's memories in The Big O. Maybe.
- Appears several times in Bleach.
- Used by Rukia for cover ups, and likely by other Shinigamis. In this case it's Played for Laughs because the replacement memories she gives you are at least as outlandish as the events they were meant to cover up. (Anything goes as long as it doesn't compromise the Masquerade). Memorably used on Cloud Cuckoo Lander Orihime - it was implied that the "memories'" weirdness was because the device simply allowed the person's brain to fill in the blanks, making the weirdness a product of Orihime being, well, Orihime (although it's eventually revealed that the memory device didn't work on Orihime; she remembered everything that happened and therefore the weird story she told was her improvising something on the spot). Was also subverted later at the start of a filler arc in which Orihime and Chad were kidnapped by a monster. They manage to get Orihime back, and she said that she and Chad had a tea party, which everyone immediately assumes is Orihime being Orihime. Later, when they do get Chad back, he corroborates.
- Tsukishima has the power to implant memories in those he stabs, making them believe they were always his friends. It's used to agonizing effect to cause Ichigo's friends and family think he is their ally and Ichigo the one acting strange: Tsukishima even takes Ichigo's place in their adventures; they think he was the awesome hero who, among other things, defeated Aizen (instead of Ichigo), rescued Orihime from her Abusive Parents to raise her (instead of her brother Sora), and took care of Chad and gave him his Orphan's Plot Trinket (instead of Oscar, his "Abuelo"). And you better NOT try to fight what he makes you believe... The most bizarre part about all of this is that from the way his power is described, he's not altering their memories, he really IS altering their pasts, but ONLY the past of the person he cuts.
- Serial Experiments Lain. a Mind Screw series if there ever was one, is largely built around exploring this trope: Lain Iwakura, with the ability to alter humanity's collective memory, is forced to deal with the questions of what reality is. Eventually she writes herself out of existence by removing all memories of herself from the world.
- Used in the first Ghost in the Shell movie. The antagonists gets a random garbage man to do some jobs for him by promising to help him getting back his wife and daughter. Which both never existed. Another mook seems to have been completely mind wiped, leaving only the basics of his cover identity with no knowledge about his actual boss. In both cases, it works flawlessly.
- In the anime the Laughing Man alters the memories of everyone who manages to see his real face so that they just remember his iconic laughing face and "Catcher in the Rye" quote icon.
- In the prequel series Ghost in the Shell: Arise this is done via a virus to Motoko Kusanagi herself, in order to frame her for corruption and murder.
- Code Geass
- The second season begins with Lelouch living a quiet, peaceful life. Only after C.C. makes contact with him does he remember being captured and given Fake Memories by his father the Emperor, causing him to forget his beloved mother Marianne and sister Nunnally and having been the terrorist Zero, as well as convincing him that the spy Rolo Haliburton is actually his younger brother. Not only that, but everyone in the school is given exactly the same fake memories to make the effect even stronger. They all believe that Lelouch is nothing more and nothing less than a fellow student, and that Rolo is his brother, whereas Nunally is merely a pretty and kind Britannian princess that later becomes the Viceroy of Area 11. And then, Shirley has her true memories back via Jeremiah, but at some point she happens to mention Nunnally while speaking to Rolo...
- Similarly, Action Girl Anya Earlstreim has her memories rewritten to cover up how she's the Soul Jar of Lelouch's mother, Empress Marianne. It really fucks up with her self-worth, as the poor girl never knows which memories are hers or not.
- ROD The TV Series has Joker stating that the British Library did this to The Paper Sisters. Anita was originally a British Library test subject, and Maggie and Michelle were former Dokusensha Agents who were modified. Dokusensha had tried this before, but previous test subjects went insane. Joker tried telling them that even their memories of meeting each other for the first time were false, but they decide it doesn't matter. The ending shows the viewers the statue of Mary and Jesus in the church where they met, with their initials carved into the base; telling us that the events they remember from that point on were their own.
- In Kaiba, this is done to Neiro. A few other characters, too. In fact, the villain gets rather memory-rewriting-happy.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!
- Asuna has fake memories of a normal childhood in the mundane world as part of her success at becoming normal ten years prior.
- Later on, Shiori secretly takes Asuna's place by copying all of Asuna's memories, so that Shiori believes that she's Asuna. Yes, she has fake memories of fake memories.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha has Fate and her memories of a happier childhood with a kinder mother. The memories themselves are real, but they belonged to someone else: Alicia Testarossa, the little girl that she was cloned from. She doesn't take the realization that they're not her own very well.
- In Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
- Fei Wong Reed did this to Fay as a part of his crazy elaborate plan. He made Fay believe that he sacrificed his brother's life to escape from the hellish imprisonment the two had endured for most of their childhood. Though in reality Fay's brother gave his life willingly in exchange for Fay's freedom.
- Also used in the anime, during the filler episodes, where Chaos uses fake feathers/memories to convince Sakura that she's known Chaos since she was a child. Of course, then it turns out that Chaos is actually just a big bunch of Sakura's feathers.
- Rosamia from Zeta Gundam is eventually brainwashed into believing Kamille is her long-lost brother, and then has her memories altered again to think that her classmate Gates is her brother instead.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Barry the Chopper taunts Al with suggestions that his memories aren't actually real, and he's just an artificial being created by Ed. His memories are, in fact, real, but it takes several episodes until he finds out.
- In Kikaider in the four part OVA It is revealed that Reiko was actually a robot without anyone, including her, knowing. All of her memories were made up and the false memories was purposely made to lead her and her friends to their doom.
- Sailor Moon
- Chibiusa does this with disconcerting frequency to Usagi's family in the second season. Somewhat justified as she doesn't alter their memories too badly and doesn't alter their personalities either: she only makes them believe she's the family niece, rather than Usagi's Kid from the Future.
- At some point she's also at the receiving end of it, and it's much uglier. She's captured while at a very low emotional point, and then Wiseman uses this to make her believe her parents hated her. The Mind Rape leaves her liable to his manipulations and, after being forcibly infused with Dark Energy, she becomes Black Lady.
- This also happens in the fifth season, where Usagi's family's memories are once again altered - this time to think Chibichibi is Usagi's little sister.
- Darker Than Black: Gemini Of The Meteor has Suou who finds out she is not exactly who she thought and was given Fake Memories of a childhood she never had.
- In Gundam Seed Destiny, Fake Memories are used in concert with Laser-Guided Amnesia to keep the Phantom Pain pilots in line. Also implicitly used on Neo, who is actually Mu with Laser-Guided Amnesia..
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yusuke Fujiwara gives everyone fake memories of him being their childhood friend so he can infiltrate the school grounds. Judai Yuki was unaffected and eventually confronts the guy.
- In Tiger & Bunny Albert Maverick, the CEO of HeroTV, has the NEXT ability to implant and alter memories. He uses his powers twice on Barnaby in order to frame a well-known NEXT criminal for the murder of the latter's parents (though it's implied that his manipulation of Barnaby's memories is far more extensive than what was shown on-screen), and also on a number of other characters to make them forget Kotetsu's very existence.
- In Another, Class 3-3 is cursed by the presence of an extra student who's already dead. While they're aware of the presence in general, working out the specifics is impossible because everyone, including the "Extra", has their memories altered as if things were like that the entire time. Even paperwork is changed to reflect this. Only after graduation can anything be fully pieced together because everything reverts back to normal.
- The type-6 Probes in Blonde Bombshell are outfitted with, among other things, fake memories to allow them to blend into society better. Lucy Pavlov has been trying her damnedest to erase hers.
- Wolverine of the X-Men is notorious for this; for a while there, anything he wasn't amnesiac about was probably a Fake Memory. The confusion has mostly been cleared up by now, however.
- Cyclops had a number of these for years, regarding his family and the nature of the accident that damaged his brain and powers, partly due to the real head trauma and partly due to Mister Sinister's tinkering.
- The retconned second team of X-Men, gathered to rescue the first from the clutches of a mad, living island, had this happen to them in a way. Xavier needs trained soldiers so he delves into their minds and speeds up their perception of time. They imagine many, many months of socializing and training and being generally awesome before they go out to rescue the X-Men. And then most of them die. Out of the survivors, one of them turns evil out of revenge and kills a lot of sentients.
- Runaways takes this trope to an extreme. It turns out that sixteen-year-old Victor Mancha is actually a cyborg built just a few years ago and that his entire life up till then is one big fabricated memory.
- In Scott Pilgrim, the reason why Scott thinks that he was a blameless paragon of virtue in high school, even though he was a dick, was because Gideon Graves "spiced up" his memories.
- Though part of that was Scott's own fault as well. It was mainly his "beating up Kim's former boyfriend" part that Gideon messed with.
- The Falcon was originally a professional criminal, gang member, and pimp. He is captured by the Red Skull who uses the Cosmic Cube to alter his memory to make him believe he was a social worker all along.
- The Doom Patrol had a minor character under Rachel Pollack's run called the False Memory, whose powers are basically implanting memories into people who only have trouble figuring out when they happened. She's an ally the first time she appears, but the second time she uses her power to insert herself into the team, keeping the Bandage People happy with false memories of barbecuing with Jack Kennedy and George Bush and Robotman with memories of his ex-girlfriend Crazy Jane. However, she also makes Coagula believe she had been sexually assaulted by her nonexistent husband and his buddy when she was 18. Dorothy Spinner, who is already very emotionally disturbed, manages to snap the rest of her teammates out of their funk by refusing to accept the False Memory's lies. When exposed, she states she meant to give the others more meaning in their lives, but Coagula is disgusted at the notion that being raped gave her life meaning.
- Non-villain example: Power Girl from DC Comics had their original Earth-Two Kryptonian origin dismissed as a fake memory by Arion the sorcerer who reveals to her her at-the-time "true" Post-Crisis origin of being his granddaughter who was genetically manipulated to be given Kryptonian-like powers. Later on, it turns out that her new "true" origin was in itself a fake memory and that she was truly an Earth-Two Kryptonian who had somehow survived the merging of the Earth universes to create the Post-Crisis New Earth.
- Betastuck: While playing the game, many of the betatesters did not remember that they were playing a game at all.
- In Perfection Is Overrated, Meiko has the power to insert fake memories in addition to her ability to delete old ones, and uses this to convince Mai and everyone else in Fuuka Academy to think they knew her and Bachiko.
- Eirin of the Touhou doujin The Silence of the Rabbits turns out to be quite skilled at this. Her experiments in cloning were responsible for the creation of Reisen as a Super Soldier, and Reisen's memories of her past turn out to be these. In addition, Eirin, after finishing off the monstrously evil clone that is responsible for the doujin's copious amounts of Nightmare Fuel, does a heroic variant of this by rewriting both Reisen and Tewi's memories so that the horrible things they endured at the clone's hands (which necessitated putting their brains into new bodies) is remembered as nothing but a bad dream.
- Pokeumans: Pokextinction use Psychics to delete the memories of any witnesses to a transforming Pokeuman or anything relating to their secret war. This means that The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You.
- A major aspect of Divided Rainbow.
- Used in the movie Push, by people called Pushers. Kira is a very powerful Pusher do and once causes one of the guys guarding her to kill his partner by convincing him his partner killed his little brother in a rather gruesome way. The kicker? He never had a brother.
- At one point Kira is made to think that her entire relationship with Nick was a false memory that she gave him and she's been pushing his thoughts the entire time they were together. She even believes that she made up the existence of Coney Island. The reality of a photo taken at Coney Island is the key evidence that causes her to realize that this was a fake memory.
- In Blade Runner, the new experimental replicants have literal Fake Memories to give them a semblance of a childhood and more humanity than older models. When they find out, Tomato in the Mirror occurs.
- In the original Total Recall (1990), the main character has visions of a life on Mars that contradicts his memories of a quiet blue-collar life on Earth. He starts to regain his earlier memories with the help of a Note to Self, but it turns out those were fake memories, too, all part of an elaborate Manchurian Agent plot. But then, you never really know whether it was All Just a Dream anyway.
- And in the book it was based on, people could buy as entertainment, fake memories of being an action hero working for the government. Problems arose when those memories turned out to be real for the protagonist... Or were they?
- The 2012 remake removes the ambiguity and makes it clear that Hauser did indeed have a change of heart and switched from being Cohaagen's top agent to La Résistance out of love. What Cohaagen was going to do after killing the leader of La Résistance was to implant Hauser's pre-Heel-Face Turn memories in him, so he could get his agent back.
- Dark City had an entire city of people whose memories were removed, remixed, and reinserted thousands of times. One police detective figures it out and commits suicide to escape.
- In The Island the clones are revealed to be given fake memories of a life from before they were cloned, tailored to perpetuate the lie, and apparently drawn from a rather limited pool.
- Moon. A few weeks from the end of his solitary three-year contract on the Moon, the protagonist discovers he is a clone of the real Sam Bell. It turns out that the wife he's looking forward to seeing died years ago, his baby daughter is actually fifteen years old, and his body is beginning to break down whereupon he'll be incinerated and replaced with another Sam Bell with the same implanted memories, who'll believe he's just starting his three year contract.
- Memento. Turns out that Leonard, unable to make new memories since being attacked, has not only been intentionally lying to himself in order to give himself fake clues to get revenge on people he's taken a dislike to in the last five minutes... but he's also purposefully remodelled some of the aspects of his life from before his laser guided amnesia struck as a way of dealing with the guilt of killing his wife.
- Inception is a process of implanting false beliefs or ideas into a person's mind, which is usually regarded as impossible. However, the plan is to infiltrate a person's dream and make him believe he's on a Vision Quest but instead of finding his true feelings hidden in his subconsciousness, the relevation at the end will be something prepared by the attackers. When the person wakes up, the memories of the dream will fade, but the belief that he resolved his internal conflict will remain and the fake revelation become part of his consciousness.
- In The Wolfman (2010), as a child, Lawrence's memories of his mother's death were re-formed during his time in the asylum so he would believe that his mother killed herself and concealed his real memories of his werewolf father tearing her throat out.
- A.E. van Vogt's World of Null-A may be the first example in literature of this trope. Gilbert Gosseyn has a false memory of marriage to Patricia Hardie, who turns out to be the daughter of the leader of a conspiracy that has secretly seized control of the world government. The memory was implanted by the Chessmaster to bring him to the attention of the conspiracy, so that he could be killed and resurrected, since His Death was Just the Beginning.
- In The Golden Age by John C. Wright the hero Pheathon is attacked by exosolar assassin Scaramouche, except that the attack, and the events leading up to it, never took place. They were implanted by the villain in order to discredit the hero, and lure him into opening a Pandora's box containing yet another set of false memories, which he removed to avoid lawsuit.
- In the Forgotten Realms novel Azure Bonds, the protagonist Alias is confused to find that people she knows don't remember or recognize her; it develops that all her memories are fake, because she's a magical construct who was only given life a few days ago.
- Tahiri Veila of Star Wars's Extended Universe, during her elaborate brainwashing. She gets busted out before the Yuuzhan Vong can finish the job, but still has the implanted memories alongside her own. Cue problems. Later in the series, she actually meets the woman whose memories they were originally.
- Everybody in the City of Elua (but Imriel) in Kushiel's Legacy, after a great magical working has been done.
- In The Traveler in Black, John Brunner uses this in one city; an evil magician takes a seat on the city Ruling Council, the better to cause the citizens to make a choice that will increase Chaos in the area. His plan includes implanting Fake Memories that he has always been a member of the Council himself in the rest of the Council members.
- As a side effect of making the subject Ret Gone, the Chainfire spell falsifies memories of events that included the subject. Naturally, the characters hanging around with Richard, who was immune to the spell's effects, think his memories are the fake ones.
- A rare version occurs in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, where Horace Slughorn does this to himself in order to erase the guilt of having given the young Voldemort information on horcruxes. Fortunately, he does a sloppy job of it, which allows Harry to procure the memory from him with some help from a luck potion.
- A more traditional example was featured in the same book where it's revealed via Pensieve flashback that Voldemort framed his uncle Morfin for the murder of the Riddles by committing the murders with his wand and magically implanting the memories of the murder in Morfin's mind so that he believed he had killed them. When the authorities arrived, Morfin confessed to murder on the spot, proved it by giving details only the murderer would know and showed them his wand as proof. He was then sent to Azkaban and Dumbledore only managed to find the real memory through a very powerful Legimency spell which he used on Morfin near the end of the latter's life. The same with the house elf Hokey, made to think she accidentally put a rare poison in her mistress Hepzibah Smith's tea.
- And in Deathly Hallows, Hermione gives her parents fake memories to protect them from Death Eaters during the Second Wizarding War. After the war ended, Hermione found her parents in Australia and restored their memories.
- A peculiar version occurs in Orwell's 1984: the citizens of Oceania alter their own memories, in a way, whenever the Party RetCons the past. Through the process of doublethink, they can recall past events if need be (hence, if the Party "tells" them to). And of course, recall the previously forgotten and forbidden memory when required by the party to do so. The definition of 'doublethink' and a common ability of non-fictional political animals. One of the points of the book. Monday: 'We are at war with Eastasia and have always been at war wih Eastasia'. Tuesday: 'We are at war with Eurasia, and have always been at war with Eurasia'.
- The "screen memories" experienced by people after they encounter aliens in More Information Than You Require.
- The Princess 99 has an example of altered and fake memories since Well-Intentioned Extremist group Birds of Prey does this to their assassins. Their method is glossing over bad, violent memories with sparkly good ones so that their assasins remain loyal only to them.
- Thursday Next spends most of the novel First Among Sequels convinced that she has three children: Friday, Tuesday and Jenny. Jenny is eventually revealed to be a fabrication, placed in Thursday's mind by mnemonomorph Aornis Hades to torment her; Thursday's family have been playing along, laying a place at the dinner table for Jenny and telling Thursday she just left the room and so on, to try and save Thursday from the trauma. The full-on horror comes at the end of the scene, where Thursday has already forgotten the conversation and asks where Jenny is, making one wonder just how many times her family have had to go through this.
- In the Firebird Trilogy, the Shuhr are capable of inserting and manipulating memories. The trope is played with, though, in that their changes are undetectable to the victim, which makes it even creepier.
- In Star Trek: String Theory, a Nacene inserts herself into the starship Voyager’s crew, and takes the form of Captain Janeway’s sister Phoebe. Almost everyone suddenly has an entirely altered set of memories, in which "Phoebe" was aboard the ship all along. The only ones not affected were the Doctor (due to being a hologram, though "Phoebe" reprograms him), and Harry Kim and Naomi Wildman (due to being slightly out of "quantum sync" with everyone else).
- In The Lost Hero, the first book in The Heroes of Olympus series, everybody at the Wilderness School is given fake memories of Jason having been there for the whole school year. He even gets a fake best friend and girlfriend.
- In Septimus Heap, this is done to the Hunter so as to prevent him from chasing Jenna again.
- During the second to last book of Galaxy of Fear, an automated system for growing clones impossibly fast and implanting them with the scanned memories of their templates is stumbled upon. Clones with scanned memories usually seem to have different emotional responses to the memories than their templates did. A literal Darth Vader Clone, looking for minions, gives the facility skin and hair samples scavenged from an abandoned Rebel base, but since these don't come with mind scans the clones are not very useful... yet, when the protagonists find them, these clones can all speak, believe they're Rebels, and have names, even if those don't match the names of their templates.
- The Hunger Games. Peeta Mellark is subjected to this in Mockingjay as part of the Capitol's plan to brainwash him and turn him into a weapon against the rebellion. This is achieved through a brainwashing technique called hijacking where they use venom to alter a person's memories. Once the rebellion get a hold of him they try to reverse the effects but it mostly leaves him confused as to which memories are real and not real. After a while he begins to notice that the fake memories are shinier and brighter than the others. In the end he ends up getting a lot better, mostly through sheer force of will, and he no longer thinks Katniss is a threat to him. In fact, he falls back in love with her and they end up starting a family together. However the effects never truly go away and he occasionally has moments where the hijacking threatens to take over.
- This is a plot point in the sequel to Those That Wake. Remak can implant these, and he's done so to Laura.
- The Man With The Terrible Eyes has gotten his memory rewritten so many times, he's not even sure what his name is anymore.
Live Action TV
- Babylon 5 has the "death of personality", an alternative to capital punishment in which the convict's memories and personality are erased by telepaths, and replaced with something that will make him useful to society. In the Season 3 episode "Passing Through Gethsemane", a character discovers that he is actually a serial killer whose previous identity was erased in this way, and he has a breakdown.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- In "Superstar", everyone gets fake memories of Jonathan being Sunnydale's own resident Marty Stu.
- The introduction of Dawn at the start of Season Five. Not only does she believe she's Buffy's little sister, everyone else believes it, too. "You've always had to take care of Dawn."
- The strangeness of this is shown when Faith returns to Sunnydale is Season 7. Dawn is visibly cold to the rogue Slayer, despite the fact that the two have never even met, and Dawn knows she was actually a glowing ball of energy at the time.
- Angel: Connor is given a set of fake memories when he's removed from the cast, as are most of the other characters he interacted with during seasons 3 or 4.
- In The Vampire Diaries it is used so often, the plot practically runs on this one. At points in Season 1 it seemed that Caroline's brain was going to melt out of her ears with the frequency that she was being mind wiped by Damon. It's still not that clear what exactly she knew when.
- The Torchwood episode "Adam" is another instance of false memories being used to infiltrate the team. Adam also uses them to begin a sexual relationship with a female member.
- It's particularly dark when Adam makes Ianto think he murdered and raped several women; he cracks underneath the guilt, horrified he would do anything so terrible. It was also physically painful for him- he screamed and thrashed in pain with each new implanted memory. Thankfully, in the end, the team wipes all their memories of the day.
- Eureka did an episode similar to this about Carter's fear of losing those he cares about, especially his daughter.
- An early Stargate SG-1 episode, the whole team was made to believe Daniel was dead. Naturally, the truth was uncovered through hypnosis.
- Another example - "The Fifth Man" in which an alien with this as a power becomes the fifth member of the team, there all along. Unusually, he's a friendly alien seeking to ally with them, and the pheromone that lets his species do this is extracted and used in a later episode to allow Daniel to infiltrate a Goa'uld summit.
- In another episode, the team discover a village on toxic planet protected by a force field. Each villager also have a direct mental link to the city computer (like an always available wikipedia to seek information). When suddenly villagers memory starts to contradict events from the previous days, the team discovers that the computer can't sustain the energy field due to a power shortage and slowly shrink it. Since it cannot hold as many people, it uses the mental link to send people outside the shield to die and modify the other villagers' memory so no one is mourning the death of people they can't remember. Since the team isn't linked to the computer, they are not affected by false memory and can discover the truth.
- And yet another (it appears that Stargate loves this trope): SG-1 was given "memory stamps" to believe they're part of a tiny colony working day and night to keep their civilization going during a massive ice age. Truth is, the ice age is on the wane, but a privileged class is keeping the workers at it for the extra energy. SG-1 found out and had to be hidden away. Teal'c jinxes the attempt because he forgets he needs to meditate and his symbiote literally can't restore his health until he does.
- And one more: Mitchell is implanted with fake memories to frame him for a crime. Turns out that the real murderer erased his own memories of the crime, then grieves over the victim's death and helps SG-1 track down the real killer.
- In a later episode, Mitchell uses the same device to let a dying friend of his experience his adventures. It's not like that friend is going to tell anyone.
- In the two-part Doctor Who story "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood", this is one of the functions of the Chameleon Arch, which turns the Doctor into a human - memories and all.
- Use of the Chameleon Arch is also noted in the episode "Utopia", with the Master having Arched himself to escape the Time War.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a particularly effective example, where Chief O'Brien is punished (by aliens) for a crime he didn't commit, and the punishment is to simulate 20 years of prison in his mind while only a few hours pass in real life. The charges are eventually dropped, but only after the 20 virtual years have been played out in his mind. In this case, O'Brien is fully mentally aware (after a few hours of rehabilitation) that his memories of prison are fake, but he still feels guilty about certain things he did in his mind. The guilt has a profound effect on his emotional state, nearly driving him to suicide.
- Subverted in a different episode where O'Brien realizes his memories don't correlate with reality and something real nasty is going on. Turns out that O'Brien himself is not real, he's a hidden assassin with fake memories, they were just strong enough for him to uncover the whole deal before dying.
- It even happened in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, where they revealed that Mack Hartford was in fact a robot and his memories of his childhood were implanted by Andrew Hartford, the worst father ever.
- Red Dwarf's Lister once gave Rimmer memories of having had a girlfriend as a present, but it backfires, and they end up having to do mind wipes. (Of course, that too backfires due to natural curiosity, and they find out what happened anyway.)
- A problem with this trope is lampshaded when Rimmer wonders how he could have his appendix out twice, and why he ended up dumping this girl who wanted him to get a proper job and a stable relationship — something Rimmer wants but Lister hated.
- The Millennium episode "Through a Glass, Darkly" involves an accused kidnapper/child killer. False memories of his crimes have been implanted not only in the minds of the victims, but also in the alleged culprit. Even Frank is misled.
- In the "Workforce" episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the crew is brainwashed to believe that they belong on the planet they are being forced to work on.
- In "Course: Oblivion" the entire crew discovers their memories are fake. They're actually not the Voyager crew at all, but Silver Blood duplicates who think they're the originals.
- In "Memorial", the members of a recently-returned away team start having memories of a horrific massacre, to the point of experiencing various forms of PTSD. Turns out the actual massacre had been committed centuries earlier, and a system had been created to project the memories of the massacre into the minds of passers-by, in order to ensure as best they could that it would never happen again.
- In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Day Of The Dove", the entity using the Enterprise crew and Klingons against each other plants memories of Ensign Chekov's brother Piotr being a victim of a Klingon massacre. After he goes off to seek vengeance, Sulu points out to Captain Kirk that Chekov doesn't have a brother.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- One episode has Geordi leave for a two week vacation and come back full of stories, only to find out that the Romulans abducted him just after he left, implanted fake memories of the vacation he was supposed to be taking and hypnotized him in an attempt to turn him into a sleeper agent.
- Another episode featured an alien who altered the memories of the crew and the Enterprise's records and infiltrated them as a never before seen crewmember. He planned to use the Enterprise's superior weaponry to win a war for his side.
- Battlestar Galactica: "I'm not a Cylon, I'm Sharon Valerii. I was born on Troy, my parents were Katherine and Abraham Valerii." BUZZ - Wrong. "I am Samuel T. Anders. I was born on Picon, I went to Noyse Elementary School." BUZZ - Wrong.
- The point of the Dollhouse. Its a company which takes operatives called 'Dolls' who they can program to be whomever they want; prositute, spy, medical officer, the list goes on. Each time the Doll has a full set of memories, at least until its wiped an a new set is downloaded. Except, what happens if a Doll begins to keep his or her memories?
- In mid '90s TV series Nowhere Man a man comes out of the bathroom to rejoin his birthday party. No one knows who he is. It's a conspiracy. He travels around much like the Fugitive, even visiting his mother at one point. She doesn't know who he is. All the while he is being pursued by some secretive organisation who clearly must have manipulated everyone. In the end we learn he isn't who he thought he was. Everything up until he left the bathroom were implanted memories.
- As of the end of Heroes Volume 4 Sylar has been implanted with the suggestion that he is Nathan Petrelli, if not with the man's actual memories. His ability to read the history of any object he touches, and his ability to shapeshift will presumably fill in the blanks.
- During season 4 of Alias a man was implanted with fake memories to make him believe he was Arvin Sloan.
- In a season 4 episode of Supernatural, Dean "Smith" and Sam "Wesson" work for a large corporation, where they stumble upon a deadly ghost. After they instinctively work to get rid of the ghost, and both quit their jobs to "hunt" full-time, the angel Zachariah, who was disguised as their boss, appears and explains to Dean that he gave them fake memories to show Dean that hunting is in his blood; no matter who he is, he is always a hunter.
- Of course, Zachariah is obviously trying to push Dean "Smith" away from his "job". He offers him a huge bonus but wants Dean to be, effectively, chained to his desk for the next several years with no social life or any other thoughts but work. Not many people, especially young people, would be thrilled by this prospect.
- This is done to John in an early episode of Farscape. A group of Delvians make him think he is married and his wife is with him on the planet, complete with fake memories of her being involved in all of his adventures. The point is to distract him and fracture his mind so they can get to Zhaan. Interestingly, he doesn't discover the truth on his own and is only released from the delusions when one of the bad guys has a change of heart.
- In one episode of Legend of the Seeker, this was used by a murderer to make someone else believe they had committed the crime. Especially tricky because not only would the person with the fake memories admit to the crime under Confession, but once the heroes had figured out that fake memories were involved, the killer planted the memories of planting the previous false memories in yet another innocent person.
- Integral to Blake's 7's first episode (and unfortunately dropped after that). Ordinary civilian Blake discovers that he was once a famous revolutionary who got captured, was forced to renounce the rebellion he'd led and had his memories replaced in order to turn him into a model citizen. Later, the Federation gets Blake convicted of child molestation by modifying the memories of children so they'd remember being attacked by Blake.
- Starsky & Hutch: The evil conspiracy in "The Set-Up" manufactures untraceable assassins by brainwashing random people and giving them memories that make them want to kill the target.
- Season 2 of Haven appears to indicate that Audrey's memories are fake and that she's really Lucy Ripley, when the real Audrey Parker shows up.
- But then it turns out that she's not Lucy either. She's seemingly ageless, and returns every 27 years with a new set of someone else's memories. She was Sarah Vernon in 1956, Lucy Ripley in 1983, and now Audrey Parker in the present.
- In one episode of Law & Order: SVU, a young woman "recalls" that her father sexually abused her in her youth after a psychiatrist "recovers" memories of the abuse. In typical SVU fashion it goes downhill from there, with the father being villified as a monster by everyone, including the SVU department and his own family, culminating in the father being shot by his other daughter in a misguided attempt to protect her sister from him. Only then does the truth come to light.
- In the third season of Fringe, Olivia is trapped on the Other Side and is given fake memories of Fauxlivia's life. Eventually Olivia starts to adopt Fauxlivia's personality, mannerisms, and skills, and for a time she truly believes that she is Fauxlivia.
- Once Upon a Time: The entire town of Storybrooke is full of fairy tale characters with Identity Amnesia who were given false memories that make them believe they are normal people. Jefferson (The Mad Hatter) has memories of both identities, which drives him nearly mad. Regina (The Evil Queen) and Gold (Rumplestiltskin) both also know who they really are (as the enactor of the curse and the creator, respectively), and they presumably have fake memories that allow them to blend in with their amnesiac neighbors, but these memories have no effect on them.
- On Sisters, second-youngest sister Georgie's therapist queries whether she had been molested by anyone, citing that it is frequently a cause of the depression and anxiety that she's been battling. That very night, Georgie apparently has a flashback of her father touching her inappropriately. Within weeks, she's not only convinced that her father repeatedly molested her, she accuses her mother of turning a blind eye to it and her sisters of being in denial as well (when they repeatedly deny being similarly abused), claiming that it would explain the myriad of problems that they've had, accusing her husband of being unsupportive, ultimately cutting them all out of her life, all with her therapist's encouragement. Only months later, watching one of her sisters, a doctor, examining her ill son, does she realize that what she remembered was not her father abusing her, but examining her (he was a doctor as well). She's horrified to realize that the whole thing was a ploy by her therapist to isolate her from her loved ones and ultimately seduce her.
- SCP-1211 ("King in the Castle"). When a man 35 years of age or older spends enough time in the Castle, it implants memories in him of being an Irish king of the distant past during a time of war with rival clans.
- Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 has a spell called Programmed Amnesia which allows you to remove and add memories on the affected target. The caster could give the target a whole new life and new personality.
- There is also a less powerful spell call modify memory that still has power perversion possibilities.
- The Fetch from Changeling: The Lost are magical doppelgangers created by the True Fae when they abduct a human. The Fetch live out the lives of the people they've replaced, oblivious to the fact that their whole life is a shame...until the taken human, now a Changeling, escapes from Faerie. Most Fetch aren't aware anything's amiss until this happens, and most take the news they are fakes with memories stolen from a small piece of a person's soul poorly. Of course, sometimes the Fetch's memories are imperfect to begin with...
- In Eclipse Phase it is possible to implant these via psychosurgery. The "Edited Memories" trait indicates that a character has them as part of their backstory.
- There a several magical abilities in Exalted that can modify or remove memories. Most such effects cause false memories in the place of whatever was tampered with. For example, the Sidereal charm Avoidance Kata teleports the user out of a fight and makes everyone present forget that he was ever there to begin with. If the Sidereal has done something important during the scene, then those present misremember the deed as being done by someone else.
- Takumi in Chaos;Head. Specifically, his life from the age of maybe 12 or so until starting high school.
- One of the main uses to which Shiki in Ten Days With My Devil puts his mind control power is to edit people's memories, facilitating the work of the demons by inserting them into convenient cover roles or making people forget seeing anything unusual.
- In Umineko: When They Cry, the beginning of EP3 where a young Beatrice meets Virgilia turns out to be this. However, this is a variant where the memory is fake on purpose; it's really just Yasu's memory of his/her time spent with Kumasawa, but with a very heavy layer of fantasy to make it more idealized and magical.
- The main cast of Schlock Mercenary had their memories altered, voluntarily since the alternative was being killed for knowing too much about the UNS's super-soldier and immortality projects. Because they didn't want to stumble back into the same situation again, Tagon made a point of asking their brainwashers to do as good a job as humanly possible, and the only one who left himself a Note to Self did it so he could act on a grudge and reminded himself to keep it a secret. Eventually, Petey reveals to them what happened, and though he can't restore their memories (Except Kevyn's), he offers to subtly alter the fake memories so they can tell them apart from the real ones.
- This is one of the many, many, MANY theories regarding Oasis in Sluggy Freelance. Like almost anything else concerning Oasis, it's highly uncertain.
- In Commander Kitty, the minds of android clones are altered to "remove imperfect thoughts". This apparently also includes memories, seeing how Android Nin Wah remembers the more glamorous story she fabricated to explain her cyborg arm as what really happened.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Tedd declares that the test he had Sarah perform was a success despite nothing seeming to result from it, Sarah jumps to the conclusion that Tedd might have transformed her and gave her fake memories of always having been a woman. Tedd hurriedly explains that indeed nothing had happened and goes on to explain why that was the case.
- In Misfile, reality shifted thanks to Rumisiel misfiling Ash and Emily's files. Everyone but those three (and it's implied God though He doesn't seem to be taking any action) have fake memories that lead them to believe that Ash was always a girl and Emily has yet to be a Harvard bound senior. Rumisiel can't confess his mistake to his superiors since they would likely just make the changes permanent which would alter the main characters' memories as well.
- All of the supersoldiers in the e-novel E.H.U.D.: Prelude to Apocalypse have these, as well as liberal amounts of Easy Amnesia when they stumble too close to the true memories.
- Numerous Gender Bender stories involving Magic Transformations have the world reality-shift around the main character, so that everyone sees things as if they had progressed naturally from the beginning in the new reality.
- Paradise by Jon Buck has a bit of an aversion, when characters are TG'd the past is retconned by "Random Omnipotent Being", but they keep their, no longer true, memories... in one story this leads to an oddity. As a woman discovers that she dated someone that in her male life she never actually met.
- The cast of Sevenshot Kid is lousy with this.
- A mixture of someone else's memories and Fake Memories is how Church lives for years without realizing he's an AI in Red vs. Blue.
- Family Guy: A frequent staple of the episodes:
- "Stewie Loves Lois": Peter somehow convinces a judge, who is presiding over Dr. Hartman's medical license hearing, that he, too, was raped during what was supposed to be a prostate exam. It leads to the revocation of Hartman's license and ruination of his career.
- The American Dad! episode "Vacation Goo" reveals that all of Francine's memories of family vacations were created by a CIA machine Stan borrowed so that he could use the time to watch football.
- Goldie Gold and Action Jack, "The Goddess of the Black Pearl" has the villain using a herb to give Goldie Gold, the personality of the Goddess of the Black Pearl. This would be under Demonic Possession, but the fake king is really Tylar, the Art Director.
- The original Ultimen of Justice League Unlimited had implanted memories, covering for the fact that they're all less than a year old. In this case, the memories were supplemented by minimizing contact with their "families."
- Legion of Super Heroes the animated series has an episode where Chameleon Boy intentionally undergoes having fake memories written onto him for the sake of espionage...only for the Legion to discover the bad guys did the same thing with their shapeshifter.
- On X-Men: Evolution Magneto has Mastermind alter Scarlet Witch's memories so that she no longer wants revenge on him.
- Star Swirl's destiny switching spell from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic apparently alters the memories of any affected by it because they believe that they've been performing said destiny for their entire lives.
- In the Drawn Together episode "Toot Goes Bollywood" Wooldoor Sockbat, acting as Foxxy Love's therapist, intentionally implants a false memory in her mind of her being gang raped so she'll think she has a Freudian Excuse for being a slut and thus feel better about herself. He claims all therapists do this.
- Human memory is highly fallible and prone to filling in gaps, and is deeply vulnerable to pre- and post- event suggestions of what happened, regardless of what actually happened.
- Incorrect memories can be formed under a number of circumstances, especially periods of high stress or adrenaline. There is a video of a police officer firing a full magazine, reloading, and firing again, in front of a dashboard camera the officer set himself, and then thinking he only fired his gun twice.
- Anton-Babinski syndrome, or Anton's Blindness, is a condition in which an individual is blind to a large degree, but makes up an entirely false imagination, experience, and memory of vision. It's very rare, but interesting enough to be seen in House MD.
- Human visual analysis was proved to be error-suppressing. If a little part of the eye's field of vision is partially blocked by something immovable relative to the eyeball, this part is filled with "repaired" texture extrapolated from the rest of the scene. Sorry guys — error tolerance, lack of artifacts, good signal-to-noise ratio and high sensitivity seem to not to be fully compatible qualities.
- The reverse can also happen. A person can see completely, but is fully convinced they are blind. (It's tested by having people who are actually blind/them go through a room. They either have close to 0% success, or close to 100% success at key tasks, while people who are actually blind have about 50% success.)
- While it's not clear exactly how much of the events fall under this trope, a number of the 1980-1995 accusations of Satanic ritualistic abuse of children in the United States and elsewhere involved testimony that was simply impossible, which the individual did not remember until after being questioned.
- Much of the "recovered memory" testimony was discredited after a psychologist testified that the techniques used for "recovering suppressed memories" were exactly the ones she had been using in research to create false memories.
- The real clincher was the "Impossible Bunny" experiment. Using the same techniques used to "reveal" memories of abuse, a researcher got somebody to recall meeting Bugs Bunny at Disney Land...something which is impossible, due to Bugs not being a Disney character, but a Warner Brothers one. This lead to practice (and concept of Multiple Personality Disorder) coming under heavy criticism from the medical community.
- Furthermore, extensive police research produced no evidence whatsoever, despite of that according to the testimonials the conspiracy worked almost openly, using easily recognisable vehicles and facilities. Many real-life "Satanic" organizations - occult lodges, and suchlike - were forced to divert a great deal of their limited resources to protect their members from the phenomenon with varying levels of success. Needless to say, they weren't the least bit amused. Poor Satanists.
- What's worse, many of these testimonies provided by children were produced by essentially brainwashing the child. They were often asked leading questions about how they were abused, rather than if, or suggesting answers to them when they couldn't think of anything, or even just telling the kid that they'd been abused even when they denied it. If the child didn't give them anything, they would simply repeat this process over a number of days or intermittently over weeks, until the child began to believe it.
- Many people who report having been abducted by aliens, likewise, only remember being abducted by aliens after being seen by a hypnotherapist or psychiatrist who specialises in 'recovering suppressed memories' of these traumatic incidents, or else after being contacted and counselled by someone else who does believe in alien abductions.
- Psychological studies have shown that fake memories can be created by something called the misinformation effect. As an example of this: If you ask someone to recall a scene (say, of a car accident) and the ask them if they saw "the STOP sign" as opposed to "a STOP sign", the majority of participants will report- and sincerely believe- that they witnessed such a signpost, even if there was no such sign in the original scene. This is a major problem with eyewitness testimony interviews.
- Either that, or they don't want to appear stupid for missing the sign.
- It's got nothing to do with pride. If you were to ask about "the STOP sign" and then test them again after a month or two, many will report a STOP sign even if you never prompt them.
- There's also a connection to the process of refutation. When we receive information, we accept it as true, for lack of a better word, for a split second. Only after accepting that information can we examine and compare that to other information we know in order to refute that information, because, of course, it takes longer to think about and evaluate such a suggestion than to hear it and accept it. If we don't have sufficient information to refute this new suggestion, or if the process of refutation is simply disrupted or prevented from occurring properly (such as in the hypnosis examples) then we are inclined to accept that information as true. Because it happens so fast, we don't realise there's anything false about the memory. Someone mentions the STOP sign, we see a stop sign in our minds when we accept the information, and, having no information to contradict this, we assume that we are experiencing a memory of seeing the sign, and agree to having seen it.
- Heck, just lack of information can cause you to create multiple, contradictory memories of the same event. Good luck finding out which one is true without outside information.
- Even if you weren't even at an entire event, if a relative or friend mistakes you for being there and insists that you were there, you can end up creating your own memories of those events because you begin to second-guess yourself. "I wasn't there, I'm sure of it...was I?" Eyewitness testimonies used to be the most solid evidence in a case, but the need for something much more factual is vital or else it is just heresay.
- The ease with which false memories can be implanted actually borders on terrifying. There are quite a few cases of bad lineup procedure causing witnesses to 'rewrite' their memories, resulting such absurd things as people getting wrongly convicted merely because they happened to have a sign above their head, or were the right answer to "Which of these is not like the others?" Perhaps the worst part is that the witnesses may even be flat-out certain that their choice from the line-up is the right person, despite whatever later evidence proves.
- It's recently been theorized (and partially proven) that memory is as malleable as sand. Instead of having a perfect copy of a memory, it's possible to recall a memory, specifically have someone change a part of that memory through forceful suggestion, and then believe that that's actually what happened. While scary, it has practical applications: soldiers suffering from PTSD can be asked to relive the memory, then use specific drugs (in this case, beta blockers) to rewrite the memory and remove the shellshock. It's not an instant fix, however, requiring multiple treatments.
- Related to many of the above, there's such a thing as recovered memory therapy, based on a notion originated by Freud which even he rejected as impossible that a majority of women are abused sexually as children. These traumatising memories are supposed to be unconsciously suppressed and can only be brought back by suggestive questioning and trying to imagine what such situations might have been like. If you've read the above examples you can guess the rest.
- Experiments have been done on this, though the people conducting them have to be very careful to give the subjects proper therapy after implanting false memories. One example is of a woman who caused a man to believe he had been lost in a mall at the age of five and told her all of the details with startling detail and sureness for a fake memory. He had a difficult time believing it was fake, to say the least.
- Try it sometime. Talking to a friend or family member, start telling them about a news report that never happened. Supply just a few details and they'll start remembering it. You don't need any special expertise to live this trope.
- Contrary to popular belief, your brain does not record everything that ever happened to you, so attempts to "uncover" stuff you don't remember will lead to Fake Memories quite often. Your brain only registers impressions, not straight sensory input, and if you weren't paying attention to an event (or never experienced it in the first place), there might be no record of it in your mind. (This is why you can lose your keys and rack your brains trying to "remember" where you left them, and fail — if you weren't paying attention when you dropped the keys, your brain may not have registered the event at all, and you're trying to retrieve a memory that simply doesn't exist.)
- It is possible to memorize things, however. People with so-called "photographic memory" are merely people who focus on memorizing something specific. Savants capable of recalling entire books, or huge numbers of digits of pi, or people who remember very minute details of their day to day lives have the ability not due to special mental powers or brain damage (contrary to popular belief in Disability Superpowers ) but rather as the result of constant recall and memorization - people with such abilities are no better at remembering things outside of their area of memorization than anyone else.
- When the film Back to the Future was first released on VHS, a To Be Continued caption was added at the end to set up the coming sequel. Many people "remember" seeing this caption when the movie was originally in theaters and the filmmakers have had a hard time convincing them that this would be impossible. At the time, most of the films directed by Robert Zemeckis had flopped and so his only hope for Back to the Future was that it would make its money back. There were certainly no sequels planned at that stage.
- Similarly, many people remember seeing the scene on Tatooine between Luke and Biggs in the original relase of Star Wars: A New Hope. This is a Deleted Scene (watch it here) which has never been included in the actual film. However, stills from the scene were publicized at the time and the scene was included in the Novelization and the Comic Book Adaptation. Plus, this was in the days before VHS.
- The scenes with Biggs on Tatooine were included on a CD-ROM version of Star Wars called ''Behind the Magic." Some one seeing this might have "remembered" them from the movie, or misremembered them being in the Special Edition version.