Remarkable false memories
Excerpt (via Invisible Gorilla)
You probably think that you remember how you first heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. When I think back to the events of that day, I feel like I’m playing back a video recording of the events as I experienced them. That experience of vividness is misleading, though. Highly emotional and meaningful events produce memories that are more vivid, but those memories are subject to the same distortions that affect more run-of-the-mill memories. In The Invisible Gorilla, we reported a test of my memories for 9/11. I wrote out a detailed description of everything I could recall: who was with me, what I was doing, where I was, what I did after first hearing about it, what I did for the rest of that day. The narrative I produced was extensive and detailed. I then emailed each of the people I remembered having been with me that day and asked them to recall their own memories for that day’s events. I told them nothing about what I remembered. As it turns out, 2 of the people I remembered being there had definitive evidence that they weren’t. And, I hadn’t remembered the person who was actually in the room with me at the time we first heard and was there for the entire morning!
One of the main reasons we suffer from the Illusion of Memory is that we rarely have the opportunity to test the accuracy of our vivid memories. We just trust that those rich details we can remember must reflect what actually happened. I encourage you to try this test for yourself — you might be surprised by the discrepancies between your own memories and those of the people who were with you.