Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Brian and His Brain

It is way too often that I say: "I could have sworn that I _______." Locked the door. Turned off the a/c. Packed sunglasses. 

My memory sucks. Ma remembers what the weather was like on the day her first cousin's son (now 40) was born (drizzly). Yeah, I didn't get that gene. 
But false memories is apparently a prevalent occurrence. As Tara Parker-Pope reports ("Was Brian Williams a Victim of False Memory?"), and I have read in Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness, memories are not like video recordings. They are actually broken down into pieces, and the brain then draws on inferences to connect them, sometimes erroneously, if the need arises. 

As the article shows, researchers have found it to be so very, very easy to plant false memories into test subjects. I was quite surprised when, in my first psychology course, my mellow professor asked the class, "What was your first memory? It was being tall on your dad's shoulders, right?" 

Well, that messed up my recollections real good. I had some blurry ones before: Leaning too far over the side of my crib and then screaming on the floor. Trying to look out of my parents' bedroom window but my head didn't clear the ledge. There actually was one of seeing my shadow while on Ta's shoulders, but it was certainly further down on the roster until after she mentioned it. 

It's like in those sitcoms when two people are asked to recall an experience, usually to resolve a feud. It is fascinating how two people can remember one episode so very differently.

Okay, so I didn't get that camera-like recording system between my ears. So I better not make too many judgements based on it. Most of us have got lemons.   

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