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False memories: why we experience tricks of the mind

https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/false-memories-tricks-of-the-mind/

sciencefocus.com

False memories: why we experience tricks of the mind
Rob Nash had been excited to meet the former British newsreader Trevor McDonald at his sister's graduation ceremony. "He was getting some kind of honorary degree," Nash recalls. "I was sat right at the back, so all I could see was that he was wearing this awful, garishly multicoloured graduation robe.

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False memories are common

False memories are common

We all misremember things. However, false memories are not so much mistakes but can be very detailed fantasies. Some people remember precise details of an event they attended, only to later realise they were never there.

Being aware of the concept of false memories does not make us immune to it.

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False memories have benefits

False memories are not useless. It seems that they're able to improve our mental processing.

Memories are our reality. Remembering isn't just looking up fact's from our mental files. It's more like telling stories. If we forget, we reconstruct the details, even if the details are false.

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Memory conformity

When we remember what something 'should' look like, we will often construct a memory to fit the mould. 

False memories can also happen to groups and could lead to mass delusions. People were shown a fake CCTV footage of a shop robbery and discussed what they’d seen. One of the participants introduced false ideas: the thief had a gun, right? Three in four people later recounted these fabricated ‘facts’ when questioned.

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Imagined futures

Scientists think that memories help us prepare for imagined future scenarios: If I do this, then that will be the result.

Sometimes a plausible guess, shown as a false memory, can be better than no idea at all.

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False memories are useful

False memories are useful
  • False memories can help us to find associations and connections. The most helpful memory might not be the most accurate.
  • Incorrect memories of our past can help us to nurture relationships by facilitating empathy and intimacy with others. 
  • Illusions can increase your confidence: if you remember that you solved a problem easily last time, you're more likely to solve it, even if you actually struggled the last time.

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Childhood Memories

Childhood Memories

Memory is essentially an activation of neural networks inside the brain, which are dynamic in nature.

We can form memories as infants, but we do not have the ability to sto...

Memory Distortion

We all can form complex false memories in us, and it can even impact our decision making and future behavior. Planting false memories in a person can be used to tackle certain disorders like obesity and alcoholism.

Memory researchers have concluded that it is possible to induce fictional memories of the past in volunteers and even make them believe in some past criminal deeds that never happened.

False Memories: Legal Issues

False memories are a challenge in legal cases, as they are indistinguishable from real memories, with any distortion being undetectable.

Certain regression therapies where patients confront their buried childhood memories are prone to ‘implantation’ of false memories in their minds.

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Effects of ordinary medication

There’s emerging evidence that ordinary medications - from paracetamol to antihistamines, statins, asthma medications, and antidepressants - can change our brains. They can make us impulsive...

The crisis of over-medication

  • The US buys an equivalent of 298 paracetamol tablets per person every year.
  • The average American consumes $1,200 worth of prescription medications over the same period.
  • In the UK, one in 10 people over the age of 65 takes eight medications every week.

Statins and personality changes 

  • People with lower cholesterol levels are more likely to die violent deaths.
  • If you put primates on a low-cholesterol diet, they become more aggressive. Lowering animals’ cholesterol seems to affect their levels of serotonin. Even fruit flies start fighting if you interfere with their serotonin levels.
  • Studies have linked serotonin levels in people to violence, impulsivity, suicide, and murder.
  • In a randomized controlled trial, statins were found to increase aggression in post-menopausal women though, oddly, not in men. Giving statins to Nile tilapia made them more confrontational and altered the levels of serotonin in their brains.

The Forgetting Curve

Our memories have a 'forgetting curve', and unless we review what we see or learn, most of the content is forgotten in 24 hours, and the rest in the following days.

Due to the Interne...

Memories Are Associations

The more information that is available to us, the more we are unable to retain it. Memory means association and most information we consume may be simply buried inside, lurking deep in, and surfacing when the right cue pops up.

Binge-watching or binge-reading serves no useful purpose as we are only holding the content in our working memories. That's why schools space out the chapters and review them, helping us retain the material.

Memories Get Interwoven

The art and culture we engage our brains in turn into memories which can be unpredictable and fickle.

The books we read, the songs we hear and the movies we watch become interwoven and entangled with everything else in our lives.