Ever hear the expression “you can’t trust anyone but yourself”? Well, according to research of Harvard Professor Dr. Daniel Schacter, you probably can’t trust yourself either. Schacter’s research demonstrates that there are seven problems with our abilities to recall, which he calls the “7 Sins of Memory.”
Our memories are not as reliable as we’d like to believe, and here’s why:
The first “sin” is called “Transience.” Transience is the deterioration of memories over time. Most of us know that as time passes we tend to forget things. The details of an event are clearest immediately after the event, and get worse as times goes on. You used to remember the name of your 4th grade teacher–but now? Not so much.
In addition, transience attacks memories from another angle as well. Every time you recall a memory, the memory is reprocessed in your brain, which actually changes the memory slightly. This might explain why uncle Bob’s ice fishing stories get bigger every time he tells them.
The second sin is “Absent-mindedness.” A perfect example of this is when you misplace your keys. Apparently, if we don’t pay attention when we throw our keys on the counter, our brains treat the act as trivial, and it won’t bother to store the memory.
Sin three is called “Blocking.” With blocking, our memory is stored in the brain, but another thought is getting in the way. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of a name being on the tip of your tongue, and you explain, “If you hadn’t said XYZ, I would be able to remember.” That’s blocking in action.
Sin number four is called “Misattribution.” With this sin, the memory is recalled correctly, but the source is mixed up. This will get you in trouble with your significant other. You’ll say, “Hey did you hear about XYZ” and he or she will say, “I told you that! You never give me credit for anything!” Stay single.
Sin five is “Suggestibility.” This is when your memory changes because of a leading question. For example, someone says, “the guy had an earring, remember?” And all the sudden you remember that he in fact did have an earring. You can see it perfectly clear in your mind. It’s not true….but you remember it anyway.
Sin 6 is “Bias.” This is when one’s personal feelings about a situation literally change their memory.
And finally the 7th memory sin is “Persistence.” Oh persistence, how I hate thee. Persistence is when you remember something all too well, even though you would much rather forget. Moments of embarrassment, or distress that seem to stick with you no matter what. Ugh.
And there you have them, the 7 Sins of Memory.
Question for comments below: Which sin are YOU most guilty of?
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Anthony Centore is CEO of Thriveworks, located at 8800 Roswell Road, #A135, Atlanta, GA 30350 – 404-719-4233 – www.atlanta-counseling.com