Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Elizabeth Loftus: the fiction of memory

All of these TED talks are interesting, though I've heard the information is not always valid. This, however, is something everyone should know. Our memories are very fallible and very fragile. What you remember is not necessarily what happened.

I dare say that all of us have memories which aren't accurate. We remember things that didn't happen at all, or we just get the details wrong (sometimes, important details). It's not like replaying a video recorder. In fact, it's so easy to change memories, we can do it by accident.

I'd be especially skeptical of so-called repressed memories, which condition seems to be very, very rare, if it happens at all. (Normally, the problem is just the opposite: people can't forget their bad memories.) And we should all know how unreliable eyewitness testimony is, not just because we can be wrong, but because of how easily memories can be manipulated.

Unfortunately, false memories feel just as real as those which really happened. That's because the mind helpfully fills in the details for us. When you bring up a memory, it's not really a snapshot of those events, though it may seem like it. That's just not how the brain works.

When it comes to memory, just... be cautious. If it's not backed up by hard evidence, I wouldn't be too confident.

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