Holiday Dinner, with False Memories for Dessert

Posted on December 22, 2015

Photo source: Flickr

It’s that time of year again. Cookies, cold noses, festive socks, reindeer, eggnog, and, perhaps most importantly of all, sharing memories with family and friends.

Your family member wants to share a memory with you, and you not remembering seems to make the disclosure all the more important. As human beings who love to hear stories, particularly stories in which we feature as the protagonist, it feels right to indulge them. But according to science, should you let family take you down memory lane? You should proceed with extreme caution when your family starts to share memories of you that you don’t remember; there are a few major reasons for this.

Imagination Inflation
First, you have an imagination and you will use it. In what is scientifically called “imagination inflation”, imagining an event happening increases our confidence that the event has actually occurred, even when it hasn’t.
How can you tell whether it is your memory you are recalling or your mother’s? Unfortunately, it’s likely that you won’t be able to tell, since imagined events can both look and feel the same as memories of things you actually experienced. Only if you had corroborating evidence - like a photo of the moment - could you know whether your memory details were generally accurate or just made up.

Merry Memory Thieves
In a 2015 study on “borrowed” personal memories, over half of people questioned indicated they had arguments with others about memory ownership. Of course, usually we don’t notice that we have stolen a memory unless we happen to disclose it to the person it belongs to, and they actively confront us about it.
When memory thievery is unintentional, with the rememberer not realising they are telling another’s’ story, it can be called a “false memory”. False memories are accounts that feel real to us although we never actually experienced them, and can be the result of mere suggestion.

Better Together
While we can distort each others memories, some research has also shown benefits of reminiscing with our loved ones. In a study involving elderly couples who knew each other incredibly well (for 31 years on average), couples made fewer mistakes recalling an event together than alone.
It seems that sharing a memory with a loved one may well result in us remembering the event more accurately, but only if we start with an event we already remember. If we don’t initially remember the event, friends and family may well just be giving us a false memory.

This article has been edited in content for length. Follow the link below to read the full story.

Category(s):Blended Family Issues

Source material from Scientific American

Mental Health News