Our Memories Are Fallible
how we create our own personal history in our mind
Ever told a story, detail by detail you recall it perfectly, then a friend who was there tells you you’re wrong. “It didn’t happen like that!” And goes on to tell their story. How do you prove what happened actually happened!? How do you know for sure your brain isn’t making details up?
You don’t. Our minds are funny that way, we remember what we want to remember.
As for the argument at the beginning of the article, you both are right, our minds create the past we want to remember, not necessarily what happened.
In the podcast from Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, Free Brian Williams he tells the story of the journalist who lied telling a story on live television leading to his departure from his job in shame. Why? All because his brain changed the story he’d told 100 times over.
Gladwell also tells the story about his interaction with his neighbour the morning of September 11th, 2001. His neighbour and him can’t agree on the events of that morning, leading him to the conclusion that we create our own memories.
Flashbulb memories are moments in time that you remember because of a major event occurred. A wedding, a first kiss, a graduation, there are moments in life that create lasting memories forever. Do you remember where you were when you found out about 911? I do, I can still remember the underwear I was wearing that morning. I still remember in Law class all we did was watch the news. It’s fascinating what our brains do during these situations.
What we remember may not be as factually true as we think
What neuroscience has found is that what we remember may not be factually correct. Our minds are powerful, they can alter history (our own personal history not that Doctor Strange kind of shit).
We must be aware of this phenomenon, specially when people’s lives and careers are on the line. At the end of the podcast you understand why Gladwell titled it “Free Brian Williams”. He doesn’t believe Williams was in the wrong, he made a mistake that anyone could have made. We need to be more forgiving in society not so quick to jump on the judgemental bandwagon.
I always thought I won city championships almost every year as a kid. That’s highly unlikely, there’s only a handful of times teams I played on won but the past my mind remembers winning championships. This is a part of the power of positive thinking, you assume you did better in most situations. I can relate!