Memories, changing with each recall

A friend recollects an event differently. You are baffled on hearing his version. The event is hilarious than you remember. But the details have changed. As a result, you feel amused. At the same time, you are also hurt a bit. Eventually, you decide not to confront. Instead, you play along. Has this happened to you? Were you secretly angry with your friend for twisting the facts? If you have been hurt or angry, then your friend did not deliberately alter the event. This phenomenon happens because of how memory works. Memories can change. The above fact is described by psychiatrist Bruce Perry of the Feinberg School of Medicine.

"We know today that, just like when you open a Microsoft Word file on your computer, when you retrieve a memory from where it is stored in the brain, you automatically open it to 'edit.' You may not be aware that your current mood and environment can influence the emotional tone of your recall, your interpretation of events, and even your beliefs about which events actually took place. But when you 'save' the memory again and place it back into storage, you can inadvertently modify it...[This] can bias how and what you recall the next time you pull up that 'file.'"

Whenever we access the memory, we also modify it before placing it back. As a result, all the events that we recollect has been changed. The order of magnitude of the change may vary. But the memory has been altered from its original state. While you may be cross with your friend for altering the event, your friends might also hold you guilty on the same count. Next time you hear a friend recounting an event, you must remember this characteristic of the memory.

Tags: Musings, Memory, Change

Comments

  1. Very true. Memories & their versions vary. Some add extra Masala, other forget/remove the spicy parts :)

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    1. You bring about an interesting point. Haven't we all been accused of adding spice to an event while recounting it to an audience later? Now there is a scientific explanation to it. I have come across many articles on memory which sheds a lot of insights. Our mental state while accessing a particular memory decides on how we remember it. The "masala" part comes from our mental state. :)

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  2. I've experienced it too.
    Somebody I know, does it too often and gosh! it gets too twisted. Have you noticed that people end up giving themselves too much importance that way?
    There's science behind it? !
    Interesting!
    Thank you.

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    1. There is a science behind it. It is not the self-importance or pompousness which is in play here. :)

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  3. Very valid point. The speaker's of an event depends a lot on how he/she wants the listener to interpret it.

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    1. We do change the narration based on the listeners. That was not the point of this post. How we remember an event is based on your emotions while accessing that event in your memory. This will also mean the narrator will unknowingly create an altered memory. Similarly the listener also will create a version of this in his/her mind.

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  4. Damn ! I have experienced this so many times and I hold grudges against most of em for twisting things up ! Everytime a memory is recollected the person doing so weaves it around him or her. This is definitely an article to remember !

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    1. :) I plead guilty on the same count. At least, we are wiser now as we know all these are because of no fault of the narrator's!

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  5. Interesting. So more than how the event made us feel at that time, our current mood while recalling the event also matters. Nice.

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    1. :) Yes. Now you may keep that in mind while hearing or narrating events

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