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False memories: why we experience tricks of the mind

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: why we experience tricks of the mind

False memories: why we experience tricks of the mind

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

sciencefocus.com

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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