Is our Memory Unreliable? Memory is the storing of information and experience into the unconscious and conscious mind. Short-term memory is the retention of limited material for a limited time. Long-term memory stores information permanently. Long-term memory allows us to retain, retrieve and make use of skills and information. It is stored and recalled based on meaning and association.
Neuroscientists have shown every time we retrieve a memory the events are reconstructed; this means we alter the memory, making the memory lose its accuracy as time passes.
In a 1932 study, Frederic Bartlett created a case study demonstrating how telling and retelling stories distorted the information. He told participants a complicated Native American story and had them repeat it a series of times. He discovered with each retelling, the story was altered. Bartlett attributed this tendency to the use of schemas. A schema is a generalization formed in the mind based on experience. He concluded the brain tends to fill in the blanks in memory by using imagination and similarities with other memories.
Can we depend on our memories without questioning if the information retrieved is 100% accurate? To understand whether or not the information is correct, we first need to comprehend how the brain shapes our reality based on our perception.
Perception is defined as the recognition and interpretation of the information of our senses. Perception gives meaning to the things we see and allows us to store them. Our emotion heavily tints our perception. Our state of mind, whether happy, sad or upset our interpretation of reality can alter our experience of the world.
If perception alters how we see the world, then doesn’t this mean our memories are faulty?
We must question every experience, every memory, and every feeling entering our minds.