Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Memory Morphing

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:40 am

I knew about it. I admit it. I know that memory can be changed. There was a Psychology class broadcast on a local PBS station. I liked to watch it, even though I wasn’t taking the class. They had an entire episode based on the fact that memory is fallible. They showed on film an experiment in which the subjects observed a “crime” and were asked to describe the “perpetrator.” When the people were interviewed together and a plant suggested things that weren’t true, the subjects would “remember” the false facts. They were willing to swear under oath to these false facts. It taught me that eye witnesses are worthless.

One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.
Rita Mae Brown

What it should have taught me is that MY memory is worthless. Gerald Zaltman and Elizabeth Loftus are memory researchers and they are showing the world how this bug in our psyche can be hacked by advertisers. Did you lose your second daughter for three hours at Disneyland? Were you filled with panic and dread? Did the ice cream taste as good as it smelled? Did you feel ripped off because you overpaid for those Mickey Mouse ears for the second daughter after you found her? Did she cry because the only character she could find was Pluto? After you see the specially tailored commercial that tells you to “Remember The Magic” all you will remember is the Mickey-Mouse-Eared second daughter hugging Mickey Mouse. All of the rest will fade into the background.

Frank – There was another time though that I was running down a hillside covered with flowers, and there was a beautiful girl, like 15, with pigtails and she was waiting for me, and her parents didn’t know she had snuck out of the house . . .
Ghost of Christmas Past – You are so pathetic! You are so pathetic! That was the Little House on the Prairie.
Frank – Was it the Homecoming episode of Little House?
Ghost of Christmas Past – Yes, it was the Homecoming episode of Little House. Let’s face it Frank, garden slugs got more out of life than you did.

Michael O’Donoghue, Scrooged, 1988

All of it makes me want to turn off my television and hide. How can I trust my memories of Disneyland if they are going to bombard me with images of the “perfect holiday” that will alter my recollections? It brings reminiscing to a whole new level. My family argues about the past all the time. Maybe it’s because all of us are mixing reality up with commercials. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we didn’t lose Stacey at Disneyland. Maybe that was the amusement park episode of the Brady Bunch.



  1. By the way, you lost me at Lagoon.

    Comment by guess — 1/6/2004 @ 9:45 pm

  2. When Matt and I get together, we talk about stories from high school. It amazes me how many he recollects incorrectly. He even remembers being at parties he wasn’t at, just because he has heard me retell the story a number of times. I think selective memory helps us stay sane. I don’t mind if he thinks he was at the parties. I prefer to recall only the good parts of vacation.

    Comment by Ruth Motes — 9/19/2005 @ 4:04 pm

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