Fallibility of memory

More reasons to keep a journal and save notes on stuff you’ve learned:

We’ve heard the stories of Brian Williams and his confusion regarding which helicopter he was flying in. There are still differences of opinion on the likelihood of his lying versus mis-remembering, but it has highlighted how fallible meory can be. Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons have provided a handy list in their story on Slate.com on how to not be your local version of Mr. Williams, including

  • Don’t confuse memories with facts
  • Trust, but verify
  • Revisit original sources
  • Use your personal archives

Not only are our existing memories suspect, a study carried out by Julia Shaw and Stephen Porter at a Canadian university showed how terribly easy it is to implant false memories. In fact, they stopped the study when they found that 70% of subjects were convinced the fake memories were real. The authors believe that police interrogation techniques can cause suspects to believe they committed a crime and confess to crimes they didn’t.