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The function of the human mind is a complex matter to fully understand. One of these functions includes the use of memory. “Memory is the term given to the structures and processes involved in the storage and subsequent retrieval of information” (Mcleod,2013). Memory is what helps us progress as humans. Memory gives us the ability to learn, retain, and adapt to our environment. Unfortunately, memories are not perfect, they’re subjective. A memory is not set in stone, it can be influenced by outside variables. Some of these variables include retroactive falsification, misinformation effect, imagination effect, source-monitoring errors and confidence (Alcock,2018). Elizabeth Loftus adds to this topic of memories and how true they are. “Memory-manipulation expert Elizabeth Loftus explains how our memories might not be what they seem — and how implanted memories can have real-life repercussions” (Loftus,2018).
Loftus presents an example of how false memories can affect a person’s life. Loftus worked on a legal case involving an accused man; Steve Titus (Loftus,2018). Titus was wrongly confused of rape by the victim (Loftus,2018). Titus’ photo was initially shown to the victim, the victim stated that “his picture resembled the rapist the closest” (Loftus,2018). During trial the victim changed her statement, she said she was absolutely positive that he was the rapist (Loftus,2018). Titus was wrongly accused and imprisoned, it was not until later that the correct information was received, Titus was not the rapist (Loftus,2018). Unfortunately, Titus lost his family, job, and ultimately his life due to a stress-related cardiac event (Loftus, 2018). Through this example, we are able to see the consequences of false memories. An innocent life was ruined and lost due to it.
Communication is a big component of human interactions, but how true is this communication with the variable of false memories. On a broad level decisions are made from information received or perceived. Depending on information received decisions and outcomes will lead to different paths. Going back to the legal case with Steve Titus. We have already witnessed this first outcome of false information. What is this variable was not present? The other path would have a different outcome. Titus would not be falsely imprisoned. His life would potentially remain stable or continue forward. Unfortunately, the human mind is subject to these errors. False information in a sense can be related to outcomes of purposeful lies. An individual typically lies to hold the truth back. This then leads the other party down a different path in regard to decisions or thinking. False memories may not be purposeful like a lie, but they still change the outcome of the situation as a lie does.
Deciphering between a true and false memory can be a difficult task. Ultimately, the information received will lead the decision-making process. One method to avoid this could be conducting a quality amount of research. For example, let’s say you have a friend named Bob. Bob borrowed 20 dollars a few weeks ago from you. When asked, Bob states he believes that he paid you back via online transfer. Depending on the method chosen in this example will lead to two different outcomes. Based on your friend’s memory of believing, you trust that he paid you back. Bob stated that he believed he paid you back, he is not 100 percent sure. He’s not trying to lie to you, but his false memory of paying you back has put you in a deficit. The other method could be to take his word into account, but also verify yourself. You can go in your online statements and find the truth through objective facts. You see that Bob actually hasn’t paid you back. In this example, you can rely on objective facts to find the truth versus subjective memories that are not always accurate due to numerous variables.
There are current applications in relation to psychology and memory. One application is a controversial topic, altering memory to treat severe PTSD. A paper was published called “Biological psychiatry”. “The paper reviews a growing body of scientific literature on memory reconsolidation, a relatively new concept in which old information is called to mind, modified with the help of drugs or behavioral interventions, and then re-stored with new information” (Romm,2014). Upfront this seems like a great concept, having the ability to potentially alter memories that cause PTSD. The reason it is controversial is because people believe it can be considered inhumane (Romm,2014).
As seen memory plays a huge role in our lives. It’s what makes us human. Memory is a major variable that helps us progress and grow. As previously stated our memory is subject to error which can have negative consequences in our lives. With the help of different methods, we can control our memories and have a better chance of separating false and true memories in order to produce a positive outcome of a given situation.
- Alcock, J. E. (2018, April 6). Believing What We Remember. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/belief/201804/believing-what-we-remember
- Loftus,E. (2013,June). How reliable is your memory? [Video file]. Retrieved June 11,2019, from https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_loftus_the_fiction_of_memory?language=en
- Mcleod, S. (2013). Stages of Memory. Retrieved June 11, 2019, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/memory.html
- Romm, C. (2014, August 28). Changing Memories to Treat PTSD. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/changing-memories-to-treat-ptsd/379223/
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