Memory conformity - Deepstash

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False memories: why we experience tricks of the mind

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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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 store them until we are at least two years of age. It is also a fact that we cannot remember being babies. According to studies, if we have early memories of us being infants, it is likely that they are fabricated memories.

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.

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, angry, or restless, and even alter aspects of our personalities.

In most people, changes from taking medicine are extremely subtle. But in some, they can also be dramatic.

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 shared rituals and their importance
The shared rituals and their importance

Rituals give us a feeling of going beyond the ordinary, of turning events into something special and meaningful. And shared rituals are essential to humanity, as they provide us all with a sense of meaning as well as belonging o a group. 

Despite the social distancing measures, rituals can still be kept, even though at distance and not as strong as when they are established through face-to-face interactions.

Adapting shared rituals

While going through difficult times, we are all losing, more or less, the shared rituals we used to have with others. But that is not actually such a bad thing.

Instead of thinking about what was lost, we could think about what we still have and figure out ways to make the most of the time spent at home, like staying more with our family or getting in touch again with old friends by calling them.

Making new rituals

It’s not that difficult to create rituals online. Focus on:

  • Asking people to bring to their online gathering something symbolic to share, to create a sense of connectedness.
  • Marking the moment as something special by having someone provide an opening statement.
  • Creating emotional highs by using music or something else with high emotional resonance to augment the experience.
  • Having a distinct ending that includes an emotional peak, because people tend to remember an event better that way.