Three psychologists at Wesleyan University—John Seamon, Morgan Philbin, and Liza Harrison—wanted to see if imagining a bizarre experience could later lead to a memory of it. They titled the results of their study, “Do You Remember Proposing Marriage to the Pepsi Machine?”

The study involved forty students who were taken to a variety of locations around campus. In each location they were instructed either to perform an action, to imagine performing it for ten seconds, to watch the experimenter performing the action, or to imagine the experimenter performing it. The actions were either normal or bizarre. For example, if they were in the library, they were asked to look up a word in a dictionary; or they were asked to pat the dictionary and ask how it was doing. Elsewhere they were asked to check the Pepsi machine for change or to go down on one knee and propose marriage to it.

Two weeks later the participants were interviewed and asked if the action had been imagined or performed. The conclusions were clear. Whether the action was normal or bizarre, participants who imagined it often remembered doing it.

– Bart D. Erhman, Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed and Invented Their Stories of the Saviour (2016)


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