5 Ways your memory plays tricks on you.

Discussion in 'Human Science' started by Daecon, Dec 29, 2017.

  1. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

    This is an old but relevant article from the mostly-comedy website Cracked, pointing out 5 ways that human memory is notoriously unreliable.

    #5. Your Memory Can Be Fooled By Manipulated Images
    #4. Your Brain Constantly Confuses Reality And Imagination
    #3. Your Brain Is Half-Blind
    #2. Other People Can Manipulate Your Memory With Repetition
    #1. Your Mood Skews Your Memories

    You can read the full article, with explanations behind these bullet points at http://www.cracked.com/article_18704_5-mind-blowing-ways-your-memory-plays-tricks-you.html

    So the next time you try to "prove" something is true using anecdotal stories, remember these five points.
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  3. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Very interesting article, and this presentation by Anil Seth, may be pertinent to this as well;
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  5. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    If you want an interesting read and are interested in how the brain works read (one of my favorite all-time books) :
    Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind by Daniel Tammet
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  7. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Thanks for the reference. Ever since I read about the mirror neural system of the brain, I have been fascinated with brain function and how a 3 lb totally enclosed mass of neurons is able to indirectly experience the world in many different ways. All it has to work with is electro chemical signals from our senses. It is truly astounding and awe inspiring.
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  8. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    The book I referred to is even more interesting because it is written by a "savant". We usually hear about "idiot-savants" such as the subject of the movie "Rain Man". They seem to have some amazing skills while lacking others. There is usually severe autism involved so we can't really learn from then directly about how their minds work.

    The guy who wrote this book, I'll just call him Daniel, is a savant and is on the autistic spectrum but he is at the highly functioning end and in his case is in the genius range of IQ.

    He volunteered himself as a research subject to various neurophysics researchers in order to help them and to help himself understand what is going on in his brain. So the book starts out by describing how our brains work to the best of our knowledge at this point in time.

    He also is now able to relate what the researchers found out regarding how his brain is "wired". He also went to try to communicate with several idiot/savants since he would know more about what's going on in their brains even though they don't know that and even though they aren't able to communicate with him very well.

    There are some things that we take for granted (pattern recognition, especially facial recognition) that are actually complex processes and yet most of use take them for granted. For him, facial recognition isn't easy due to the way his brain is "mis-wired". Parts of his brain are connected in a way that ours aren't and parts of his brain aren't connected in ways that our's is.

    His brain associates color and shapes with numbers in ways that our's don't. That's why it's easy for him to remember large patterns of numbers. He has more associations with numbers than we do.

    In the case of Rain Man, there is a scene (based on a true story) when a box of matches spills out and Rain Man instantly "counts" the number of matches. He has figured out that, in that case, RM actually didn't count anything. That's just what we assumed was going on. People like RM have favorite numbers because of other associations. They have associations that may involve patterns of prime numbers, favorite numbers and other number associations. In the case of the box of matches, he was probably carrying around that box of matches because of the specific number of matches that were in there.

    In other words, he put them in there for a reason. He met an idiot savant who did something similar with an odd number of marbles.

    Daniel, however, has to carry a photo of his family around with him just to help him recognize his family because his brain isn't wired the way ours is. For him it's more like when we look at raccoons...they all look alike.

    There is no such thing as "photographic memory" because our brains don't work like that. They recreate memories from scratch each time we recall them. That's one reason why when we practice a skill in our heads it's just as effective as when we do something for real.

    For example, I learned to fly an airplane. Lessons were expensive. You learn some skill during the lesson but you practice it in your head in the shower, before you go to sleep, etc. They next time you are in the airplane for a lesson and practice that skill again, now you are much better.

    When you recall a memory, the visual part comes from one part of your brain, the associated smells from another area, touch from another, and so on and they are brought together each time so our brains aren't like computers with each memory stored in an associated cell.

    That's also why people can clearly recall something as a memory that never actually happened.

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    You can't remember things from when you were 2 years old but let's say that you have a dog that died when you were two. Your family could have told you over and over about the dog and how much you loved it. As an adult you may think you can remember this dog vaguely. You've seen pictures, you've been told stories and you may now "remember" these experiences as being real but all you are really doing is recreating a story.

    Anyway, it's an interesting book.

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  9. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    Yes, I am looking forward to reading it.

    I had the good fortune to watch an idiot-savant do his thing with numbers and dates at a company x-mass party. He was remarkable. You could give him your birthdate and he would instantly know the name of the day you were born on. He was mentally able to multiply large numbers faster than our senior accountant with his calculator.

    He would close his eyes for a moment and somehow see the answer almost instantly. Truly impressive to all who were present.

    But alas, he was practically incapable of social interaction. He worked as a pin-setter in a bowling alley!
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  10. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, the birthday, date thing doesn't pay well.

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  11. birch Valued Senior Member

    don't you know you can't prove using anecdotal stories? it's evident to yourself and not automatically to others but only to those who are willing to 'consider' it.

    you do also realize that even with these five so-called 'notoriously unreliable' could-be factors that your memory can still be reliable and not have been altered by any of the five listed? you do realize this also, don't you?

    i mean, then we can question your and everyone else's memory of everything and call it into question, especially since not everyone has a photographic memory, for instance. guess what? some do. i can read a line of text on paper that had notes on it and can recall it to scan the paper in my head to the exact notes scribbled etc. that's how i would pass one hundred question exams so easily when others believed i studied so hard. it also is what helped me to be a great visual artist and with great 3d spatial accuracy.

    now, let's begin: are all your memories valid or are they skewed and incorrect? how can one determine this? especially of a personal or passing event that was not taped/recorded or had people corroborating (but that can be considered questionable too as in their memory).

    also, because of the way the mind works, events as well as especially 'unusual' events tend to be very easily recalled and retained on purpose with accuracy (that's because of linear progression of events, cause/effect and association to enforce that memory), than random bytes of abstract, unrelated/unimportant information that you know you can discard and look up anytime.

    this means anything you recall can be called into question by others, even if you know your memory is accurate in excruciating detail, can't it? please inform the public of something that they are not aware of yet.

    i'm just curious if it was the threads in the fringe section or about sexual harassment allegations in the politics subforum that inspired your thread. you didn't think it was noticeable since you did mention 'prove with anecdotes?' pfft!
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  12. Daecon Kiwi fruit Valued Senior Member

    Feel free to read the article linked in the OP.
  13. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    One of the more interesting sidelights often buried in these articles (including that one, a passing mention somewhere in the middle) going back years now - caught my eye from the beginning, for personal reasons, it's seldom headlined - is that people with mild depression seem less vulnerable to manipulation and false memory implantation. They lack the false positive bias in memory, and that seems to protect them against a variety of glitches and illusions. They can, for example, better estimate likely travel times and job completion times and other such matters in which regular folks are famously over-optimistic - apparently because they more accurately remember their past experiences. They are also more accurate estimators of size, weight, net cost, personal attractiveness, survival odds of various diseases and traumas, and likelihood of favorable outcomes in conflicts.

    And it's not that they bias the other way - they get it right.

    This strikes me as a candidate for the evolutionary advantage of depression - which is gene-linked, and is otherwise one of those puzzles of evolutionarily conserved handicap or deficit.
  14. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I think I understand what you are saying, but if memory serves, any kind of depression often leads to inaction.
    I believe in medicine inaction is a symptom of depression.

    I would prefer the scientific approach of "critical thinking" in order to evolve the thought processes of the brain and advance knowledge, rather than stagnation from being too comfortable with things as they are, even if they are depressing.

    I'm not sure why, but fatalism comes to mind. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatalism
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Yep. That's part of the mysteriously conserved handicap.
  16. mmatt9876 Registered Senior Member

    Do other people with other types of mental illness such a Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia also seem less vulnerable to manipulation and false memory implantation? Do they also lack the false positive bias in memory? Do they also more accurately remember their past experiences?
  17. Kat9Lives Registered Senior Member

    ordering this gem of a book STAT!

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