False memories are created when misleading information is combined with existing memories. In other words, false information can become associated with past experiences already represented in long-term memory, creating a ‘familiarity’ or sense that it could have occurred (also related to source confusion, see earlier post on Source Monitoring). With repeated suggestion and recall, these false memories can become more detailed and individuals more confident in their reality. Elizabeth Loftus is well known for her work on the distortion and creation of false memories, such as getting lost in a shopping mall or misremembering details of an automobile/pedestrian accident.
Loftus, E. F. & Pickrell, J. (1995) The Formation of False Memories. Psychiatric Annals. 25, 720-725.
Loftus, E. F., Miller, D. G., Burns, H. J. (1978). Semantic integration of verbal information into a visual memory. J Exp Psychol Hum Learn. 4, 19-31.
Garry, M., Manning, C. G., Loftus, E. F., Sherman, S. J. (1996). Imagination inflation: Imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred. Psychon Bull Rev 3, 208-214.
Shaw, J., & Porter, S. (2015). Constructing rich false memories of committing crime. Psychol Sci. 26, 291-301.
Hyman, I. E., Husband, T. H., Billings, J. F. (1995). False memories of childhood experiences. Applied Cognitive Psychology. 9, 181-197.
And many more!