Tag Archives: brain

How memories work…

Memories are peculiar things. Similar to paintings, they become cracked and distorted over time. The older the memory becomes the less clear it appears.

The thought occurred to me when I was recently speaking to an old school friend about something that happened when we were around the age of 13. As we progressed further into the conversation we both realised that our recollections of that particular event were slightly different. While both of us were certain that our own memory was the most factual series of events, we decided to ask someone else who was with us at the time. Strangely, when we got the third person to recount their memories they also had a different perception. This struck me as odd. All three of us had a very lucid memory of the exact same event and yet each memory was divergent.

Have you ever watched an old family video and thought “I don’t remember that”
I have, and I always seem to think it every time I watch one. Slowly but surely I have probably unknowingly rewritten the events from those videos in my mind and that’s why they always seem different when I view the recorded version.

I wonder how many of our most important memories have become distorted over time. The memories that we cling on to and the ones that make us smile.

I quite clearly remember the moment that my daughter was born or at least I think I do. Upon trying to envision the entire thing, I can’t. I can tell you that I was in the room, her mother was in the room (obviously, that would be some strange birth if she wasn’t) and that there were some other people. I can’t tell you who the other people were, I can’t tell you how many of them there were. I can’t remember anything that really happened in that room besides 3 small specific moments, which I now wonder if they happened exactly the way I remember them.

There are two quotations about memories which I think sums it up pretty well. The first is;

“Leftovers in their less visible form are called memories. Stored in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.”

A quote by a man named Thomas Fuller.
I truly believe that is an accurate description. Memories are just leftovers, they’re never the full picture. If I had a 12 inch pizza in front of me and it was untouched then no matter what way I looked at it, it would always be the same pizza, the same shape. If I cut that pizza up and eat 3/4 of it, what’s left of it can move around the plate, it can be moved into different positions and and even different shapes. The original shape in its entirety is now gone and I’m left with what’s left behind. I still know that it’s the pizza that was there at the beginning but it doesn’t resemble what was there to start with.

The other quotation is;

“Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.”

I feel that this one is fairly self explanatory. As a result of most of memory being distorted our mind automatically tries to fill in the blank spaces and ultimately we believe it to be true. If there is one thing that the human mind is programmed to believe then it is itself.

I am no expert on the human mind, as a matter of fact I know nothing about what sits inside the human skull or any other skull for that matter. A small part of me wishes that I did because the human mind fascinates me. The way we perceive things and the way we use logic is truly remarkable.

I’m sure that there are a lot of studies on memories and how they work and why they change. I should probably have researched them and made this blog more educational but the truth is I don’t want to know. I’ve studied many things over the years, I’ve been educated in a variety of wonders and I enjoy it, I enjoy learning new things. When it comes to my mind, as much as it fascinates me,I prefer the wonder and mystique of why it does what it does.

The human mind created Doctor Who, Comics and beer…..I don’t need to know how it works as long as it keeps doing what it’s doing.

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