How Reliable is your Memory?

One thing that fascinates me about philosophy is the relationship between reality and perception. I thoroughly enjoyed applying what Elizabeth Loftus said about memory to my understanding on the differences between reality and perception. It is both fascinating and terrifying how faulty our memories can be; especially when one considers how our beliefs and attitudes are often based off memories. As Loftus mentions, for most people their memories are their identity.

I wish that she would have gone more into how one plants a false memory. I understand the example of ‘smash’ versus ‘hit’ while interviewing, but what about in the case of the accused rapist or the girl who thought her mom was abusing her? Where do those memories come from? I once knew a girl who claimed had memories of her dad had sexually assaulted her but he was over seas with the military during the time. Her memory was false and she was torn between the facts of the situation and her trauma. I am interested in where the memory came from and how one treats that. In Loftus’ TEDx talk, she could have provided a theory by further explaining in depth the causes and treatments for these false memories. She mentioned how researchers would plant false memories into people, but then what? Are they left with those false, and sometimes traumatizing, memories?

I see the benefits of tampering with memory: the way that one can reconstruct a memory and therefore have healthier thought processes etc. With that said, I think there is a very fine line which would have detrimental effects when crossed. We have seen in Loftus’ talk that it can easily ruin lives. I think that manipulating memories could easily out weigh the good in terms of mental health, but this practice should be centered around regulations and perhaps a license.

How Reliable is your Memory?

2 thoughts on “How Reliable is your Memory?

  1. kljaustin says:

    I’ve thought about the instances of abuse as well. I once read an article about a young girl who told her mother about how her babysitter was abusing her. She gave vivid detail I wouldn’t have thought possible for a 5 year old, but it was later found that none of the accusations were true. I also wondered if through the implanting of false memory it could replace potentially traumatizing memories from childhoods. If a child were attacked by a dog at a very young age, could it be possible to erase their fear of animals? While this goes against evolution, it could help small children recover from irrational fears caused by traumatic events that they can’t truly remember. Maybe that’s more of a memory repression issue, but I think there could be some room for implanting memories too. I think there are much more productive ways to use this research than making kids like vegetables.


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