Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Elusive Tricks of Memory

This was good - wasn't it?

I don't know if the following is short or long-term memory-related since I can't remember the timescale of the individual examples (LOL), but both my husband and I have noticed the following: whether we are watching a repeat of a murder mystery on TV, or re-reading a thriller because our small-town library has nothing new to offer,  or re-listening to an audio story in the car because we can't remember if we have heard it before - it is remarkable that neither of us can remember 'whodunnit' until the very end of the very last frame or chapter.  As the story goes along, things or people or events seem vaguely familiar or indeed, extremely familiar but the plot eludes us. Is this some selective function of our brains to prevent possible information overload? Would we have endless insomnia if we were to remember all these horrible stories in detail?  If so, I am quite lost in admiration at the intelligence of the human brain.  A pity it chooses to remember all the incidents in one's life when someone has hurt or insulted us. I believe in the maxim of 'forgive and forget', the forgive part is not so hard but the forget thing doesn't happen. Weird.


  1. I have noticed the same thing. I think the issue with entertainment memories, movies, TV shows, books, and so forth is that we just have so much of it that it all get filed in the disposable section. Imagine that you only saw one motion picture in your entire life, you would probably remember it quite well. However with the mind boggling amount of input, I think our brains just sort out the non-important.

    What I have noticed is that my memories will change. Supposedly we don't remember like a computer does, reading a stored file. Our memories are mental reenactments of the original event. Each re-enactment is subject to some editing or creative additions. Then that re-enactment is laid down as the memory. What you get if you remember something often, is something similar to that exercise where the teacher reads a paragraph to the first student in the class, and that student whispers the paragraph to the next student, who then whispers it to the next student...until it gets to the last student. Then the last student recites what she or he heard and it is usually vastly different from the original paragraph.

    1. I especially notice that people remember different things about the same event to the extent that I wonder if we are talking about the same occasion.

  2. I got this article in my feed from Scientific American yesterday:

    In honor of the recently departed Gene Wilder, one of my favorite false memories is from Young Frankenstein. My memory is Gene Wilder spotting a huge set of door knockers states: "What a magnificent set of knockers!" To which Madeline Khan replies in a long drawn tones and a squeeky falsetto "Oooooohhhhhh thaaaaaaank youuuuuuuu." Here is the actual scene:

    My wife and I have a private joke, re-enacting the scene with tomatoes, cats, melons, donkeys, and yes the occasional door knocker, and in the process have managed to change the scene in our memories.