The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Well, as I recall it...

As some of you might already have figured out, I am very interested in perception and misperception. I have written about it several times; sometimes obvious, sometimes not.

For instance, when I wrote about prejudice or bias, I was writing about perception.

We, I wrote, all have prejudices, biases, that we deny. In my view, a very tiny number of us are without any biases. Maybe no one is free of them.  Imagine what went through my mind when I chanced upon this article:

When Memory Commits an Injustice

It is about the fallibility of memory. Go ahead, read it... it's a short article.

What, you ask, does this have to do with bias? Is Douglas wandering off his rocker (again)? Well, on the face of it, it appears to have nothing at all to do with bias but it has everything to do with perception. Memory is not a "snapshot" of some event, it is a retained perception of an event. By "event", I mean that every memory is fixed with more than just a single thing. You do not simply remember a person, you remember what that person means to you, the context of the person's relationship to you. There is almost always at least one event involved.

You don't simply remember your mother, you remember conversations you had with her, you remember her cooking, you remember her soothing your fears, or kissing your cheek, or stroking your hair.  It's the same for all your memories. Think about it.

From the article:
In recent years, neuroscientists have documented how these mistakes happen. It turns out that the act of summoning the past to the surface actually changes the memory itself. Although we've long imagined our memories as a stable form of information, a data file writ into the circuits of the brain, that persistence is an illusion. In reality, our recollections are always being altered, the details of the past warped by our present feelings and knowledge. The more you remember an event, the less reliable that memory becomes.

Now we find that these locked in, solid, beautiful, memories are not all that reliable.

It is something I have known for some time. I learned a long time ago that my memory of some things has been faulty. My perception of the past is not perfect, never has been. I have embellished some things, downgraded others, tossed out others entirely. Not intentionally, of course.

There are some things we would like to forget but cannot. The liquor business might thrive on that. But it doesn't work... except for those blackouts that save you from remembering what a fool you made of yourself during that drunken binge. Or at that frat party. 

That's okay, someone else will remember and tell it over and over again.

But we alter our memories, the article (and research) says even as we recall events.

Scary... maybe my ex-wife wasn't what I thought she was.



C Haire said...

This is very interesting, maybe I should start writing everything down so I don't forget details...or is it too late?

Douglas4517 said...

 They don't seem to explain how soon the recollections are altered, do they?