Sunday, June 22, 2014

Are Memories of Events Accurate?

Most people have so-called flashbulb memories of where they were and what they were doing when something momentous happened: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, say, or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger. (Unfortunately, staggeringly terrible news seems to come out of the blue more often than staggeringly good news.) But as clear and detailed as these memories feel, psychologists find they are surprisingly inaccurate.

Eye witness accounts are often unreliable.  There are cases where a person has ended upon death roll and the person is innocent.  Here is one such case:  A man was convicted of rape and murder of a child in 1984 by five eye witnesses.  After serving 9 years in prison,
DNA proved him not guilty.  Such devastating mistakes by eyewitnesses are not rare according to a report by the Innocence Project.
Memories are stored in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, shown in red in this computer illustration.  Photo by Researchers, Inc.

Researchers have known for decades that memories are unreliable.  They're particularly adjustable when actively recalled because at that point they're pulled out of a stable molecular state.  Last spring, scientists published a study performed at the University of Washington in which adult volunteers completed a survey about their eating and drinking habits before age 16.  A week later, they were given personalized analyses of their answers that stated - falsely - that they had gotten sick from rum or vodka as a teen.  One in five not only didn't notice the lie, but also recalled false memories about it and rated that beverage as less desirable than they had before.  Studies like these point to possible treatments for mental health problems.  Both PTSD and addiction disorders hing on memories that can trigger problematic behaviors, such as crippling fear caused by loud noises or cravings brought about by the sight of drug paraphernalia.

Childhood memories are often inaccurate.  We can be led to believe almost anything if we are told the same thing over and over again. Memory is not like a video recorder, recording every moment of our lives in accurate detail. It is a murky, complex system that can be manipulated as research shows.  There have been cases where a psychologist or psychiatrist has led a child to believe sexual abuse happened to them when it didn't.  An ordinary adult can manipulate and convince others something happened in their childhood that didn't, or at least not the way they remember it.

Hypnosis is, also, and inaccurate tool, but yet has been heavily relied on.  Okay, my question for all of you:  Is your memory of events accurate, or twisted?  I know for a fact that my siblings and I have different memories.  Life is too short to allow bad memories to live in your mind, especially, when they mostly inaccurate. 

Thank you for reading.  Have a great week, and I'll see you again next Sunday.

Sandra K. Marshall, Author
@ Eirelander Publishing


Ailyn Koay said...

it is good enough for a short lifespan I suppose. It can be manipulated, but I don't see myself having a memory of an elephant

K.T. Bishop said...

I have a great memory. My family rely on me to remember things that happened way back when

Rose Anderson said...

Very interesting post, Sandy. I have a pretty good memory for instances in my childhood, but in the here and now..Ask me why I just walked into the other room and I couldn't begin to tell you. ;)

Kari Rogers Miller said...

Great thought provoking post pun intended! :) My sibling and I remember very different happenings....however, the sibling one year younger than I...remembers pretty much what I remember...on the other hand, the five year younger sibling....has much different memories than the both of us. Could 5 years make a difference in the way we are raised or our view of life as we see it at the time?

The Comeback Kid said...

Nice blog Sandy. I experienced some of the things you talked about when I wrote my memoirs. I had to acknowledge that some of my event memories may not have been the same as others who may have remembered them differently.

Then there is the question: Could some of our memories have been planted.

Melissa Keir said...

I agree that memories differ depending on a variety of things. I know that my sisters and I have different memories of growing up. Each of us has turned out to be very different people and our memories have shaped us.

The brain research is very interesting because it shows so much about how our eyes and other senses can trick our brain.

Sandy said...

Ailyn, I agree with you. Smile!

K.T., my brother is that way, too.

Rose, I have that problem, too.

Sandy said...

Kari, I definitely think five years can make a difference in the way we're raised. I think the more children parents have the more lenient some of them become.

Tom, I believe in later life that memories can be planted by other individuals.

Melissa, those links I post as my sources were amazing. They're even talking about teaching people to eat healthy by inplanting certain memories. lol