By David Canfield
October 01, 2019 at 10:00 AM EDT
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The following is an excerpt from The Science of Rick and Morty: The Unofficial Guide to Earth’s Stupidest Show, by Matt Brady. The book is now available for purchase.

While sitting in the Denny’s of his mind in “The Rickshank Rickdemption,” Rick walked Cornvelious Daniel through a traumatic memory of how he invented portal-gun technology. The Federation agent followed along as Rick sold him on the story — including an added detail about McDonald’s Szechuan sauce — which involved love, hope, and, ultimately, loss. And it (maybe) was all fake — a completely fake memory designed to be 100 percent believable. That’s so Rick.

Rick’s artificial memory was a beautiful example of something that can be done with virtually anyone. You can even do it to yourself.

It goes like this: in a research setting, a subject is asked to remember a time in their past. The questioner has some information about that time prior to the session and can direct the flow of the conversation. As mentioned previously, memories are vulnerable when they’re being actively remembered; therefore, a particular suggestion can be implanted in the subject, so long as it’s done carefully and the new memory is seated in believability.

All the questioner has to do to achieve this is gently blend in a couple of real elements from the memories of the subject with the false memory and then ask the subject to remember them.

To further help the new memory along, or to help if the subject is being resistant to the new memory, the questioner can ask the subject to imagine what could have caused them to do the action in the new memory, hint that other people have memories of them doing the action, or suggest that most people have some level of repression in their memories, so it’s okay if it takes a little while for them to remember this new (and completely fabricated) element.

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In one of the early experiments where this method was used, the research conducted by Dr. Julia Shaw of London South Bank University was halted because it worked too well. In her study, Shaw convinced college students to “remember” a crime they had been involved with years before — a completely fabricated story. With just a little coaxing like that described above, the students turned Shaw’s idea of being involved in a crime from something that could not have happened to something that might have happened to something that did happen.

Add new information to the old memory in this vulnerable state and apparently the new, albeit false, information gets blended right in. And this can be done quickly and easily with individuals or with groups who have a common reference point in their memories. This fragility of memories is often cited as one of the means by which conspiracy theories about public events can spread; you’re asked to remember an event, and as you do, you’re questioned by the believer in the conspiracy theory whether you remembered x, y, and z happening as well. The seed is planted, and your brain does the rest.

Back to Rick and Cornvelious Daniel: while walking down Rick’s memory lane of portal gun creation, Daniel had no idea he was moving through something Rick had constructed, probably for this very eventuality, to protect the secrets of portal technology. All Rick would have had to do is come up with the new memory, blend it with some actual memories (was the placid and peaceful Rick of his memory actually C-137?), and repeat it over and over and over until the real memory was gone, replaced by the new.

Copyright © 2019 by Matt Brady. From THE SCIENCE OF RICK AND MORTY: The Unofficial Guide to Earth’s Stupidest Show by Matt Brady. Reprinted by permission of Atria, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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