Your very fallible memory

Your memories can be manipulated and changed. In fact, this happens often. And you're the one doing it to yourself.


  1. It’s really weird to know that this is going on, and experience it anyways. The fallibility of memory has been documented before so I knew about it, and when I was in a car accident a few months back I was pretty careful about noting in my memory what hard facts I could.

    The day of the accident, I had no memory of the collision itself. One instant I’m driving, next instant I’m on the side of the road. But now when I replay the incident in my head, there’s a memory of crunching metal and the airbag hitting my face.

    It’s both annoying, and curious.

  2. I remembering hearing quite a few years ago that every time you access a memory, you’re changing it. I imagine it’s like a pizza stone – you can’t use it without altering it a little bit. The more you access/use it, the more different it becomes. Which means your most favourite memories to revisit are the least accurate ones!

    As someone who is acutely aware of how terrible my memory is, articles like this make me wonder if my memory is actually just as ineffective as everyone else’s, but most people don’t recognize it. It’s a comforting thought, anyway. Haha.

  3. In my university, they had run a really interesting study on this:

    Prior to the psych 101 kids coming in, they contacted the students’ parents to find out which of them had been on a hot-air ballon ride. They took those who hadn’t as participants in the study, and on the first session confirmed with them that they really hadn’t been on any balloon ride.

    They then told the students “For the next two weeks, conjure up a memory of being on a balloon ride every night. ‘Remember’ everything about the ride, in as much detail as possible. Try to really make yourself believe you had been on a balloon ride.”

    Within two weeks, a significant proportion of the students came back and said something like “I’m sorry, I totally messed up. I know I said I hadn’t been on a hot-air ballon ride, but I had. I had totally forgotten, but now I remember. I really shouldn’t have been a part of your study.”

    These were students who were told from the start that the study was about creating memories, and they still thought that the memories that they deliberately created were real!

    This kind of thing really shows how malleable our memories are. (And also how certain phenomena like “recovered memories” in a psychiatric session are very frequently complete bullshit.)

    1. Then please explain why I haven’t come up with better parents after all these years.

  4. …and as you age and your friends become senile, the phrase can become “You’re a very fallible memory…” 

  5. So that explains how some people remember Reagan single-handedly saving our fine republic in the 80s!

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