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Understanding Unreliable Memory


Understanding Unreliable Memory

Understanding Unreliable Memory is a fragile process. Despite our belief that we have an infallible hard drive that keeps unchanging records of how things happened, memory research has consistently shown that our memories are easily altered and can even be completely wrong. This article explores some of the reasons why we are so prone to false memories, and how knowing about this phenomenon can help us to improve our lives.

Our biases and beliefs influence the information our brains store, and when we recall those memories. Almost everyone has biases that affect how they perceive events and their details. These biases are often triggered by emotions, and can lead to a wide variety of errors in memory, such as misattribution or false memory.

Decoding the Tricks of Unreliable Memory: How Our Minds Bend the Truth

Many people have what psychologists call “flashbulb” memories of major, often traumatic events that they feel they remember perfectly. However, experiments have found that these memories are also largely inaccurate. They can be distorted by a variety of factors, such as how they are reported or the context in which they are recalled. These distortions are more common with highly emotional memories.

We are also susceptible to suggestion, which is the tendency to incorporate new information into an existing memory of an event. Studies have shown that, for example, when participants were reminded of gender stereotypes regarding science subjects, they recalled lower grades than they actually received in those subjects. Similarly, participants who were asked to recall a Native American fable tended to reinterpret it in line with English culture, leading to errors in their memories.

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