Our Memory Is Not Reliable
It's a new approach to the Roshoman story.
How many times in the past have we searched for things like keys, which we know we left in a particular place, only to find they have vanished from that spot?
How many times have we exactly remembered an incident from our past, only to find that our memory, when compared to another person’s recollection of the same event, is different?
There are many types of memory, too many to discuss them all. Here’s one we should note — it’s called Personal Identity.
Personal Identity is the unique identity of a person throughout their lifetime. In other words, being faced with multiple lifetime situations, our Personal Identity allows us to establish ourselves as the same person, regardless of age, regardless of condition. We persist through our identity.
Two major memory categories are short-term and long-term recollections.
I took a course in Experimental Design during my graduate school studies. My Master’s degree was in General and Experimental Psychology, and I designed a new investigation concerning short-term memory to verify already proven analysis by George A. Miller.
George A. Miller conducted experiments on short-term memory and created his famous paper, “The Magical Number 7, plus or minus 2.” This paper proved that creating Chunks, a process in which recalling individual pieces of information is more manageable when grouped. Chunks increase the length of short-term remembrances. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say you need to remember numbers, like a phone number(ten digits) or your social security number (nine digits). Instead of trying to remember a list of disassociated numerals, chunks as in Miller’s “The Magical Number Seven, plus or minus two” (in my experiment’s case, using chunks to groups of five), the list of numbers stays in one’s memory longer. My paper found the memory improvement to be statistically valid.
I have always been interested in how the brain functions and remembers. The book by Eric R. Kandel called “In Search of Memory” was fascinating to me on many levels when I was a student. Frequently, I had to read specific paragraphs over and over to make sure I understood them. Interesting to note that Kandel, in his new edition of this book, has added a subtitle, “In Search of Memory,” plus “The Emergence of a New Science of Mind.” Five principles are the basis of this new science of mind. The first is mind and brain are inseparable. I’ll have to reread this new edition.
People often think that memory operates like recording equipment, but this is not the case. There are constructive processes at work, such as images, that can change based on outside information. Therefore, our memories are created by watching an event and then changing the event by adding new elements.
Elizabeth Loftus and John Palmer, in 1974, experimented with illustrating this process. Two groups of people watched a traffic accident on film. The researchers asked the first group, “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?” Then, the second group was asked, “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other?” Those that listened to the question using smashed rather than hit gave a higher estimate of their speed. Then, a week later, they were asked if they saw broken glass in the film. Using the word smashed prompted these viewers to report twice as often as those who heard the word hit, to have remembered seeing broken glass. However, the film contained no broken glass at all. Therefore, the wording of the question distorted the viewer’s memory. The people who heard smashed remembered a more severe accident.
On the op-ed page of the NY Times on September 3, 2021, David Brooks describes current research on brain functioning. For years, scientific research assigned different activities to different brain parts; for example, the Hippocampus records episodic memories, and the Amygdala recognizes Fear. However, the brain, body, and environment work together to create new mindsets in recent discoveries. Brooks mentions John Gough, a Ph.D. student at Sussex U. who said regarding Understanding/Experiencing, body and mind function together, no longer as separate entities.
We can no longer assign different functions to different parts of us. We are learning that all parts of us cooperate with all other parts to make us functional humans. So conceptually, we should be ready to revise our long-held concepts.