This week at Harper Morgan English, we’re talking about memory.
People are often frustrated when they forget things, whether it’s the birthday of a good friend or something insignificant like taking the bin out. Forgetfulness is an everyday occurrence and a huge amount of research has been done in an attempt to understand these failures in recall. Something which people give little consideration to in their daily lives is what we are able to remember.
This incredibly insightful talk  by Elizabeth Loftus (the queen of memory investigation) looks at memory and the accuracy of our memories. Did the things that we ‘remember’ actually happen the way we think they did, or is it possible that our memories have been contaminated by external factors? Could it be that we believe something happened in a particular way because we have spoken about it since with other people and their interpretation of the event has coloured the way we now see it? These False Memories are extremely vivid and are virtually impossible to tell apart from genuine, accurate recall.
Whether a memory is false or not, usually, has very little impact on us (it is also very difficult to corroborate the authenticity of all our memories). However, what about situations where it can mean the difference between life and death, imprisonment or freedom? Hundreds of convictions in the USA, which were based on eyewitness testimony, have since been overturned due to evidence proving these witness reports to be inaccurate – False Memory in action.
And what implications do these memories have on our behaviour? Luftus reveals that planting a False Memory of illness after eating a particular food can result in the person avoiding, or eating less of that food.
So, here are some things for you to consider;
How accurate are your memories, and how can you be sure of their authenticity? Have you ever discovered that something did not happen the way that you believed it did? What ways can you check whether or not your memories are real, and is it realistic to expect people to do this?
What role should eyewitness testimony play in the justice system? Should we allow people to recount their experiences in court or should we only admit evidence that is objective and verifiable?
Finally, is it wrong to plant False Memories if they could result in a beneficial change in a person’s behaviour? Should parents plant False Memories in their children if they could help them lead healthier and happier lives?
Let us know what you think. As always, comment, share and join the conversation!