Memory is NOT a Recorder

Our brains are far from perfectly functioning recorders of our life events.

Researchers have demonstrated just how easy it is to trick the mind into remembering something that didn’t happen.

They also used two very simple techniques to reverse those false memories.

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Scientists Implant and Then Reverse False Memories in People

gizmodo.com

Memory is Not Reliable

The human memory system is fallible and malleable, so much so that it is possible—and even quite common—for people to possess false memories.

Memory glitches can lead to all sorts of social implications, especially in the legal and forensic field.

But now, for the first time ever, scientists have evidence showing they can reverse false memories!

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Lisa Son

"When people describe a memory, they will say that they are ‘absolutely certain’ of it. But this certainty can be an illusion. We suffer from the illusion of believing that our memories are accurate and pure"

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Short vs Long Term Memory
  • Short-term memory allows us to be present in the moment.
  • Long-term memory helps piece together our identity through the recollection of our past experiences, among other things.
  • The farther back we go, the more our recollection gets murky.
  • When you think back to your childhood, you are reconstructing your past while also being affected by who is asking, why, and how.

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Christopher Madan

"As the field of memory research has developed, it’s become very clear that our memories are not ‘recordings’ of the past that can be played back but rather are reconstructions, closer to imaginings informed by seeds of true experiences"

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Aileen Oeberst

"The same way that you can suggest false memories, you can reverse them by giving people a different framing"

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Study Proves Reversal is Easy

Oeberst’s study is innovative in suggesting that it’s equally as easy to reverse false memories.

Knowing the base truth isn’t even necessary to revert the fake recollections.

Use these two techniques:

  1. Recall the exact source of the memory - what is leading you to remember this; what specific recollection do you, yourself, have?
  2. False memory sensitization - tell yourself that being pressured to recall something can elicit false memories.

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One Thing to Remember

Takeaway is that every memory is a meta-memory, or an interpretation of a past time, one that can be impurified or purified by suggestions from the social environment. Simple awareness of this fact is crucial.

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