Can we trust our memory or does it play tricks on us? Have you ever been certain about a past event, which you seemed to remember quite well, just to find out that you were wrong?

It is believed that our memory works in such a way that any of the stored information may be accessed and “extracted” at the right time. So, if we have forgotten something, a hypnosis session or a stressful situation can recall these memories.

In fact, memory recalls more imagined than real details of events. The mechanism for reading the information is very fragile and easily damaged.

There is a hypothesis that memories are formed and recalled by different parts of the brain. But the point is that not only these memories are stored in another location, but they may also be “false“. Memory cannot be an exact copy of what happened.

Can we trust our memory? Experiments that give the answer

This is demonstrated by an experiment by famous psychologist Frederic Bartlett. He showed a picture to several people and then asked to reproduce it. Then it was repeated in a few days, then in a week. In the end, he compared all the received pictures and found that each successive image was different from the previous one, and the last one was almost unlike the original.

However, people were convinced that they were depicting what they had seen with their own eyes. According to Bartlett, memories are a creative reconstruction, an attempt to re-experience a feeling, and the old information in the brain is “overwritten” by the new one.

Memory is a flexible mechanism and may depend even on the way the question is worded. For example, during an experiment by psychologists Elizabeth Loftus and Guido Zanni, several subjects were shown a movie of a traffic accident.

Then they were divided into two groups and asked one of the questions: “Did you see a broken headlight?” or “Did you see the broken headlight?” The percentage of those who responded that they had seen it was greater in the “the” group (17% to 7%). But in reality, there were no broken headlights in the movie.

In general, the human brain can be implanted with false memories. Once the false memories are implanted, they will become real, in spite of the facts. Such memories will stand the lie detector test.

For example, a 4-year-old boy was being told of a non-existent event for 11 weeks: that he had allegedly admitted to the hospital because his finger had stuck in a mousetrap. His answers were being recorded.

In the first week, he said that he had never been in the hospital. In the second week, he said, “Yes, I cried a lot”. In the fourth week, he said he remembered being hurt. In the 11th week, he confirmed that he remembered how it had happened.

Moreover, even hypnosis, which until recently was considered a fairly reliable way to recall forgotten events, often leads to the fact that people invent non-existent events.

In most cases, they unconsciously want to justify the effort of the hypnotist, and their brain begins to mix real events with fantasies and scenes from books and movies.

There was a case when five women under hypnosis were asked to recall the events of a staged robbery they had observed. Each woman told about it in different ways.

So when two people are having an argument over the same event, none of them is lying, they just remember it in different ways.

So can we trust our memory? It seems that we can’t. Unfortunately, our own memory is not as reliable as we consider it to be.

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