Saturday, October 29

Should you trust your memory?

Dear Son
I keep on scolding you about not following up on important tasks but you are fine with basic tasks like watering the plants or taking care of the dishwasher. So there is obviously something going on in terms of your follow-up.
you have to remember that our lives are much more complex these days son. That's why we have diaries and reminders, we need to pace ourselves, there are competing demands on our time. You have to go to school, study for exams, go with your friends, sleep, work on your projects, make new friends, etc. etc. You cant keep everything in your mind either. Why not? because our memory isnt perfect. God knows mine sucks, so that's why I use my electronic organiser in my blackberry and iPhone so heavily. its a must, we only have a limited amount of time on the earth and deadlines means that we have to be very efficient.
Here's a study which talks about how memory degrades. Mind you, this is only for men, women remember EVERY wrong thing you have done, not just for this life but for all your previous lives, the errors made by your ancestors and your relatives, etc. etc. and then all emerge at very dangerous times.

Should you trust your memory?
Not according to a classic study by Ulric Neisser. Joe Quirk at H+ magazine does a good job of summing up the specifics:
Robert Burton describes an experiment in his book On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You Are Not, which everyone with a strong opinion should read. Immediately after the Challenger explosion in 1986, the psychologist Ulric Neisser asked 106 students to describe in writing where they were when they heard, who they were with, how they felt, what their first thoughts were. Two-and-a-half years later, the same students were assembled and asked to answer the same question in writing. The new descriptions were compared with the originals. They didn’t match. People had changed facts about where they were, who they were with, what they felt, what they thought. When confronted with the original essays, people were so attached to their new memories they had trouble believing their old ones. In fact, most refused to revise their memories to match the originals written at the time. What struck Burton was the response of one student: “That’s my handwriting, but that’s not what happened.”


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