Psychologist Christopher Chabris, who studies false memory, said that Rannazzisi’s story isn’t a case of someone mistakenly remembering something that didn’t really happen. It’s about inserting one’s self into a narrative that’s already getting a lot of sympathy.
“I’m not sure it takes a psychologist to come up with motivations for that,” he said. “Saying you survived 9/11 . . . is a more attention-getting story. You can get into a loop where if you get rewarded for that sort of thing you keep on doing it.”
But Gugliemo, who was friends with Head for several years and directed the documentary “The Woman Who Wasn’t There” about her fabrication, has a more charitable explanation.
“I think Tania started to reach out to [survivors] simply as one human to another and ended up becoming a 9/11 survivor,” he told The Washington Post. “She needed that intimacy, that connection. She needed to be part of that community and not an outsider.”
In a strange way, it makes sense to him that someone might want to lay claim to some piece of 9/11 experience, despite the horror of the actual event.
“There’s a very pure form of love that is part and parcel with people’s reaction to survivors and people who have actually endured a horrific unthinkable event. It’s just this outpouring compassion,” Gugliemo said. “. . . I think people need a piece of that more than anything. That feeling of belonging.”