You Probably Stole Your Best Stories From Other People

Can you really be sure that one crazy night — yes, the one with the goats — actually happened the way you remember it? Or, that it even happened to you? Turns out, as Science of Us reports, we have a habit of stealing bits from other people's stories and making them our own.

In one study, published last month in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, researchers looked at the story-stealing habits of 447 undergraduate students. Specifically, participants were asked to report if they'd ever told someone else's story as if it happened to them, felt unsure if an incident actually happened to them or someone else, or disagreed with someone's telling of a story.

Results showed that participants were surprisingly willing to admit when they'd taken bits or whole anecdotes from others. About half the respondents reported that they'd heard someone else's story and told it as their own. And, almost 57% of participants said they'd had a dispute about whether an incident happened to them or someone else. However, very few participants admitted to doing this frequently — most said they did it a "few times" rather than "regularly."

When asked why they borrow anecdotes, over a quarter of respondents said it was to make their own story seem more interesting or exciting as a first-person account. And, 23% of participants said they either "find the story engaging and would love it to be part of [their] own life" or they've "heard the experience so frequently [they] consider it [their] own."

However, obviously, the researchers couldn't be sure if the participants were telling the truth here. And, since it's possible to borrow stories without realizing it, respondents could be lying on the surveys without knowing. Still, the researchers concluded that story-stealing happens pretty frequently among the college students and sometimes those borrowed bits can unintentionally turn into false memories. But, story stealing happens so often that it's probably not worth getting angry about. And, hey, if the story's that good, it deserves to be told by a bunch of us anways.
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