Researchers from UC Irvine and the University of Padua in Italy have found that doctored photos can alter our perceptions and memories of public events. The researchers showed subjects either an actual or an altered photo of one of two historical events, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing and the 2003 anti-war protest in Rome. The Tiananmen Square photo was altered to include a crowd, and the Rome photo was altered to show riot police and a masked protester. LiveScience reports
When answering questions about the events, the participants had differing recollections of what happened. Those who viewed the altered images of the Rome protest recalled the demonstration as violent and negative and recollected more physical confrontation and property damage than actually occurred. Participants who viewed the doctored photos also said they were less inclined to take part in future protests, according to the study.
Elizabeth Loftus, who designed the study (and whom I write about in Elephants on Acid
), warns that doctoring photos in this way is "potentially a form of human engineering that could be applied to us against our knowledge and against our wishes, and we ought to be vigilant about it."
Big Gary says, "The Ministry of Truth already knew this."
Incidentally, I'm sure that everyone who came on the 2006 Museum of Hoaxes Trip to Loch Ness remembers when Nessie suddenly appeared right behind our boat. If you don't, here's a picture to jog your memory: