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wildpotato's avatar

Will you share instances when you confronted the fallibility of your own memory?

Asked by wildpotato (15011points) October 12th, 2009

Psychologists studying memory often run experiments on induced remembering and induced forgetting. Such alterations can be suggested by oneself, another person, or society. Elizabeth Loftus, for example, studies implanted memories. She did an experiment where she had a man’s brother say offhandedly “You remember that one time you got lost in a supermarket when you were little?” Even though no such thing had ever occurred, the experimenters eventually got this man to recount a very detailed memory of this experience. Through this experiment and others like it, psychologists found that suggestion from another person, and especially from an expert (the brother in this case), can cause the subject to generate memories that are not tied to real-life events. The control for this experiment was the mother, who said “You’re full of it” when non-experts (people outside the family – the experimenters in this case) tried to convince her that her son had once gotten lost in a supermarket.

Have you had an experience where you remember something a certain way, and then are confronted by evidence which proves that your memory is faulty? Will you describe it? If you like, I’d also love to hear your own ideas about why your mind got tripped up.

My answer concerns a self-induced remembrance: In the winter of my senior year in college I dislocated my knee. I remember playing with my dog and running around each other on a hilly field, and then she ran straight into my legs from the left side. I watched my left leg bend inward to the right, and I saw my kneecap jump to the outside left of my knee. Then the screaming, the cell phone call, my friend taking me to the ER, etc. etc. The weird part is that a few days later I realized that while I had (and still have) this visual memory of my knee jumping out of its socket, it was impossible for me to have actually seen it happen. I was wearing pants that day – my friend sliced the left pant leg up the side to look at the damage, and I still have those pants so there’s no way that that part is a false remembrance. It’s the sight of my kneecap sliding left out of my knee that has to be the induced remembrance. And yet I still have that visual available in my neurons; I’m playing it through right now. So weird.

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16 Answers

saraaaaaa's avatar

I don’t know whether this is exactly what you want but I will try anyway…

There was one time when I got drunk (well really there were many but…), and I couldn’t remember at all what had happened the night before when I woke up the next morning. Some of my friends started telling me that I had done various things, some of which I hadn’t, and I ended up getting really angry because I couldn’t accept that something I had no memory of might have happened.
Anyway when I had time to think about it I could picture myself doing those things but couldn’t distinguish whether those things were memory or imagination from what my friends had told me. I still don’t know to this day.

Zen's avatar

I forgot which avatar I put on this morning.

wildpotato's avatar

@Zen Queen Elizabeth, I think

saraaaaaa's avatar

It was Queen Lizzy, I remember!

whatthefluther's avatar

@Zen….Preceded by Boy George. We gotcha covered Zen!
See ya….Gary/wtf

whatthefluther's avatar

@Zen….I trust you are not going to tell me that never happened in which case I have a legitimate response to this query. See ya….Gary/wtf

whatthefluther's avatar

@wildpotato….In another thread in these very waters, I recall seeing @wildpotato talking to @wildpotato and chastising @wildpotato for an error in identification of an author or title. I found this action reasonable and prudent and in turn had a word or two with that bastard @whatthefluther . @wildpotato would be the control in this particular situation. Would you kindly ask @wildpotato if this did in fact occur, or is @whatthefluther full of crap, as usual. Thank you.
See ya….Gary/wtf/@whatthefluther&@whatthefluther

filmfann's avatar

I know I have, but I can’t remember it.

Allie's avatar

I was walking around my old high school with one of my friends, Stacey. We were looking in our old lockers and when I looked in mine there was still a message in there on the door that I had written to another friend (June) in Sharpie. Someone had tried to get rid of it, but it was definitely still visible, and readable. I took a photo and showed it to the friend whom I had written the note to.
Fast forward two years.
I’m driving in the car with Stacey and a third person, Lyne. I’m telling Lyne the story of how one time June and I were walking around the old high school and when we looked in my old locker there was a note that I had written June 2–3 years before. Stacey pops up and says, “That was me.” I look at her and go, “No.” She says, “You found that with me.” Again I went, “No.” Then she mentions things that happened that same night and I remember that it was in face her I was with when I found the note in the locker.
I think I switched the people up because it was June that the note was to, not Stacey.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

This actually happens to me a lot, I think because I tend to fill in the gaps when I don’t remember something perfectly. I also falsely remember things that happened when I was very, very little because of the number of times my parents have told me the stories.

RedPowerLady's avatar

There is a lot of research that indicates Loftus’ work is lacking. Some of her ideas make great sense. For example, when you think back to childhood memories you will often ‘see yourself’ in the memory. When this occurs you can realize that you aren’t actually remembering the event. You have filled in the gaps from stories or seen pictures of that event. As you say, you can’t really see certain things but our “memories” seem to construct them anyhow. However, I must mention that her work on falsely implanting memories is highly suspect especially when it comes to childhood trauma. As an alternative you might try reading some of Jennifer Freyd’s work.

I’m sorry I don’t have a memory to share, just wanted to share that information.

Strauss's avatar

I was going to share, but I can’t rememememember any…..

Dr_C's avatar

what was the question again?

Shuttle128's avatar

I often attribute entire scenarios, sometimes in great detail, to people who did not say or do those things. Usually it is scenarios that seem to best fit the personality of someone else.

I had a rather heated argument with my girlfriend over one such occurrence. I had mistakenly attributed seeing a movie with her. After a while of me describing the entire trip and specific things we did in the theater she looked up the release date of the movie in question. It turns out it left theaters a full two years before I had met her! I had misattributed a rather significant memory to a person I hadn’t even met yet!

philosopher's avatar

I never use to need list to shop; but I always made them anyway.
I know why I need them when I shop without a list. I always forget at least one thing

Strauss's avatar

It happened to me recently, right here on Fluther!

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