Thursday, June 16, 2011

6 Reasons Why Your Memory Is Not That Great

If you thought human memory is amazing, you were wrong. There are some memory biases that interfere with our ability to store, retain, and recall information. Here are 6 reasons why your memory is not as good as you thought.

1 Cryptomnesia- this is a very interesting thing that happens with our memory: forgotten memory returns without being recognized by the subject. The subject then believes that they came up with something new and original. So, it’s like a hidden memory. Authors like Helen Keller, Byeron, and even Nietzsche were victims of cryptomnesia. They all wrote parts or even full stories (like Keller) that resembled something that was already written by someone else. Cryptomnesia  is also responsible for those so called past life experiences and even for some of the stories mediums tell people about the spirits they come in contact with. 

2 Déjà vu  – while some people believe that déjà vu is a premonition or a prophecy or even a past life experience, it’s only a way your memory plays with you. Déjà vu is just a recollection of a fragment from one’s past, remembering some pictures you’ve seen or maybe it’s just the feeling of knowing without actually knowing anything. It’s not a glitch in the Matrix either.

3 Cross–race effect – I’ve heard many Caucasian people state that all Asian people look the same; well, according to the cross-race effect, every race believes that people from other races look the same and they have difficulty recognizing and processing faces (and even emotions). Apparently, individual differences and prejudice contribute to biased judgments and suspect misidentifications. 

4 Misinformation effect – our memory can be greatly influenced when we are misinformed. When doing a study on the misinformation effect, participants were divided into two groups, one group was misinformed and the other was not to be altered in any way. Then, they had to see a video of a complex event. After seeing the event, one group was misled by false information. When asked about what happened, the group that received false information adopted that information as their memory. Let me give you an example of another study.  Subjects were asked to see a car crash movie and after that they had to remember how fast the cars were going when they hit each other. The word “hit” was replaced by different words such as: smashed, collided, bumped or contacted. When the word “smashed” was used, people tended to “remember” a higher speed but when the word contacted was used, they tended to “remember” a lower speed. They were also asked a week later if there was broken glass on the pavement and most of those who were given the word “smashed” a week before, said “yes” although there was no broken glass. It seems that people’s tendency to conformity can also be applied when it comes to memory. This “social contagion of memory” was proved in a study where a subject was misled by the other person that witnessed the same scenes. When recalling again what they saw, the subjects remembered (to be true) many of the erroneous items their partner suggested before.

5 Rosy Retrospection – we tend to remember things to be more positive than they really were. This study showed that people evaluated their vacation to be more positive than it was evaluated during the event itself. “The "rosy view" phenomenon is associated with an increase in the number of negative thoughts during the event which seem to be caused by distractions, disappointment, and a less positive view of the self. However, these effects are short-lived; within days after the event, people have much more positive evaluations of the event. “

6 Positivity Effect – the positivity effect happens when we attribute situational circumstances to bad behaviour of people we like. On the other hand, we tend to attribute misbehavior to people we don’t like. What does this have to do with memory? It seems that older adults “are more likely than younger adults to pay attention to positive than negative stimuli”. In addition, compared with younger adults' memories, older adults' memories are more likely to consist of positive than negative information and more likely to be distorted in a positive direction. 

Don't be sad, here are some ways to improve your memory. 


  1. hi Andreea, sorry for the late visit. this is such a great blog, i must read again in the "memory" article of yours.
    i am glasd to get to know a romanian blogger like you. hope to visit you again.
    can you visit my other blog as this link. and collect 3 awards from me for you. they are award number 6, 8 and 9. if ok, can you confirm these numbers by posting them in my comment box., congrats and have a nice day

  2. Thanks for your kind words and for the award :) that's really nice of you

  3. thank you i am happy to read this article