My Memory Ain’t What It Used to Be

I count on and trust my senses and my memory. After experiencing several optical, auditory, and kinesthetic illusions, I’m not quite as certain about my senses as I once was. So, if I’m dedicating illusions to memory and then trusting those memories today, wouldn’t that present a distorted view? Why do I trust them so much? Doesn’t make much sense.

“People tend to place greater faith in the accuracy, completeness and vividness of their memories than they probably should.” (Simons1)

Ya think so? As I’ve managed to survive into my sixties, I appreciate how fallible my memory is – especially when someone challenges my recall of an event with their recall of the same event. Sometimes it seems we’re talking about an entirely different event. As a defense mechanism, memory just ain’t what it used to be.

3 Misconceptions about Memory

Let’s consider three misconceptions about my memory and the truth about them based on scientific study of the phenomenon by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign2.

  1. Misconception – Human memory is like a video camera that accurately records information for later evaluation.
    • Truth – “We’ve known since the 1930s that memories can become distorted in systematic ways. For example, University of California professor Elizabeth Loftus and colleagues have managed to introduce entirely false memories that people believe and trust as if they had really happened.”
  2. Misconception – Memories do not change once the experiences are embedded in memory.
    • Truth – “We’ve known since the 1980s that even memory for vivid, very meaningful personal events can change over time. Our memories can change even if we don’t realize they have changed. Cornell University psychology professor Ulric Neisser showed that personal memories for the Challenger space shuttle explosion changed over time”
  3. Misconception – The testimony of a single confident eyewitness is adequate evidence to convict someone of a crime.
    • Truth – “Even confident witnesses are wrong about 30 percent of the time. That means that if a defendant can’t remember something, a jury might assume they are lying. And misremembering one detail can impugn their credibility for other testimony, when it might just reflect the normal fallibility of memory.”

“The fallibility of memory is well established in the scientific literature, but mistaken intuitions about memory persist.” (Chabris1)

If I can’t count on my senses or memories, what can I count on? Perhaps it depends on why I depend on them. For the most part, I rely on my senses and memories to validate reality – in defense of my beliefs. What will I do now that I know my memories and senses cannot be counted upon to give me accurate and truthful information?

What to Do?

It seems to me a bit of skepticism might fit well into my equations – along with a little humility towards others. I’m learning how okay it is to allow others to challenge my perceptions and memories – useful fodder for awakening in me an awareness of who I am beyond illusions and misunderstandings.

I don’t have to be right, ya know! Life will continue with or without my understanding of it. Perhaps it’s okay to be incorrect – now and then… 😉

Sources:

  1. Union College psychology professor Chris Chabris and University of Illinois psychology professor Daniel Simons coauthors of “The Invisible Gorilla.”
  2. “What People Believe About How Memory Works: A Representative Survey of the U.S. Population.” Online or from the U. of I. News Bureau. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
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How My Life Story Defends My Current Beliefs

In my First-Second Degree of Illumination bubble, I use a variety of methods to convince me of its reality. One of those methods is memory – where I write my life story. It appears that I experience events and faithfully record them in memory where I retrieve them when necessary.

However, things are not always as they appear.

What if my ego uses my life story as a convincing agent to keep me firmly within my bubble beliefs, unaware of anything outside that reality?

Read more How My Life Story Defends My Current Beliefs

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When a Story Hurts, It’s Probably Hitting Your Issues

…the story itself doesn’t matter!

Over the years, we’ve conducted thousands of Rapid Eye Technology sessions in which as a practitioner, I’d move the RET eye directing “wand” rapidly as I’d spew as many hurtful words and phrases as I could in as short a period as I could while the client would “blink them out.”

After one session, a particularly dazed yet delighted client once said to me (paraphrasing), “How did you know that I was abused as a child? I didn’t tell you that…” I NEVER once told her that she was abused. She made up a story to suit the words I was throwing at her – words that hurt.

Read more When a Story Hurts, It’s Probably Hitting Your Issues

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Evolution and Memory

Remember the Telephone Game? Participants sit in a circle or line. The first person in the line receives a whispered message from the game host. The first person then whispers that message to the next participant, who whispers the message to the next person, etc., to the last person, who then speaks the message out loud. Invariably, the final message is totally different from the initial one. Our own memory system operates like that.

We trust our memories as solid and correct, and yet, the more we recall those memories, the more likely they are to be distorted to the point of being totally false when recalled later. The reason for the memory distortion is the fact that human memories are always adapting. It’s evolution in action.

“Memories aren’t static. If you remember something in the context of a new environment and time, or if you are even in a different mood, your memories might integrate the new information.” (Bridge)

Read more Evolution and Memory

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